SUN Hockey Pool

Samsonoff?

Edmonton Oilers Sergei Samsonov celebrates his goal on Minnesota Wild netminder Manny Fernandez...

Edmonton Oilers Sergei Samsonov celebrates his goal on Minnesota Wild netminder Manny Fernandez during second period action at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alta., on Tuesday March 28, 2006. (SUN/Jason Franson)

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:01 PM ET

The longer the Edmonton Oilers play, the better the chances Sergei Samsonov will stay.

We're talking a couple of playoff rounds amid the bedlam of Rexall Place. A little success. Better still, a lot of success. Time to soak in the atmosphere this city is about when the real games begin.

Of course, even a long look guarantees nothing, given that Samsonov has a wide-open market waiting after July 1 and a wife and infant daughter to consider.

Still, the odds of re-upping Samsonov look considerably better than they did with Petr Nedved in 2004. He bolted for Arizona at his first opportunity - after super-model wife Veronika Verakova made it clear she'd move here when hell freezes over. Or did she say this was hell frozen over? Whatever.

This time could, and should, be different.

"It's a good fit, definitely" says Samsonov, who will face Calgary tonight with a dozen points in 11 games with the Oilers. "I've enjoyed my time here. It's been a fun run."

Prompted by his performance in a 4-0 win over Los Angeles, reporters fired up the Sammy Must Stay bandwagon yesterday, pressing Samsonov for his take.

"It's a possibility," offered a non-committal Samsonov, who said the same thing last week.

"When the season comes to an end, I'm going to sit down with my family and agent and talk over all the situations. Like I said, I enjoy playing here. I really like it."

While Samsonov had the joint jumping with the 2-0 goal and an absolutely ridiculous assist on the 3-0 goal by Jaroslav Spacek - a highlight reel heel-kick pass after his stick broke - Oilers assistant GM Scott Howson was taking care of business.

Howson spent much of the evening chatting with Boston-based agent Neil Abbott, who represents Samsonov and Jeremy Roenick of the Kings, at Rexall Place. Before you get carried away, know this: there was no discussion about contracts or offers to hand over salary that'll be available when Michael Peca opts for bus travel in Buffalo or other points east.

This was a friendly chat. Schmoozing. Conversation. Not once, say my sources, did Howson blurt, "For God's sake, Neil, we'll pay anything." Not that that's such a bad idea.

"He likes it here," Howson said. "I think it's all focused on today, for both sides, right now. The fit has been great. I think he feels the same way. I think he's enjoying the playoff race, the environment he's in."

Nedved was a fit for the Oilers, helping them go 9-2-2-3 in the stretch and scoring 15 points in 16 games, but his decision to leave was based solely on lifestyle, not hockey. Nedved signed with Phoenix for little more than the Oilers offered - he and agent J.P. Barry never gave Kevin Lowe a chance to up the ante - because Verakova loathed the thought of moving north, far from New York and Los Angeles, where her career is centred. Besides, the weather in Scottsdale is wonderful in January.

"Petr was a kick in the rear end because it was such a good fit for him, yet he chose sunshine over career," coach Craig MacTavish said.

"That's up to the player. They put themselves in that position. We were disappointed by it. Hopefully, the same won't be true with Sergei and we have a good run and he wants to come back."

Samsonov's decision will be weighted more heavily in favour of wanting a chance to win. He'll get a big raise on the $2.774 million he's making no matter where he signs, so it'll come down to that and what best fits his family. Why not Edmonton?

Samsonov said last week wife Meghan and daughter Natasha will come to Edmonton if the Oilers make the playoffs. Again, the longer that visit, the better. Well into May would be fine.

"It's fun to come to the rink when you know the team is successful and they have a goal in sight," Samsonov said. "It's fun winning games. That's what it's all about.

"When you don't win, it's a miserable time. I got to witness that this year in Boston. It's nice to be on a winning team. You see a lot more smiles around the locker-room than you do when you're losing."


Videos

Photos