SUN Hockey Pool

Food for thought

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:05 AM ET

Michael Peca had not given it much thought. Neither had Sergei Samsonov.

They were in the middle of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

But with the season coming to a close on Monday, two of the Oilers' biggest unrestricted free agents started thinking of their future and whether Edmonton would be part of it.

Yesterday, the Oilers took one final team picture, signed a number of jerseys, cleaned out their lockers and headed their separate ways for the summer.

"I've never been through this process, so I don't know quite how it works," Peca said yesterday. "I'm not going to worry about it. I'm going to go enjoy the first couple of weeks of my off-season, spend some time with the kids and try to unwind a little bit.

"I'm going to wait and see what's going to work best for my family and me. If Edmonton is one that works for us, then sure it'll be Edmonton."

STRUGGLED THROUGH SEASON

After struggling in the regular season, scoring just nine goals and adding 14 assists in 71 games, it seemed unlikely Peca would be back in Edmonton for a second year. Definitely not with a $3.99-million price tag.

However, the 32-year-old centre turned things around late in the season and had a strong playoffs with six goals and five assists in 24 games.

"When you are able to turn it around, mentally and emotionally things become a little bit better for you personally," Peca said. "But it was never the team, the organization, the community, anything like that. It was things that I was dealing with myself that were frustrating.

"At this point, Edmonton was never not an option. So I'll just wait and see what this process holds."

A native of Toronto, Peca is expected to head back to an Eastern Conference team next year.

However, coming a win away from a Stanley Cup championship can also be enticing. Especially if the Oilers are able to keep the core of their team together for next season.

"There are probably going to be pluses and minuses wherever you go, I think that's just the nature of it," Peca said. "The plus of staying here is having the opportunity to continue to build from the success we had in the playoffs.

"The one plus that you get and one of the reasons I'm initially thinking about going out east is that you get to spend more time with your family. The road trips aren't as strenuous, the schedule isn't as difficult. But the schedule part is secondary to what you can accomplish as a team."

For Samsonov, 27, the situation is similar.

Having come to Edmonton in a trade from the Boston Bruins in March, Samsonov gave the Oilers extra scoring punch.

He finished the playoffs with four goals and 11 assists in 24 games.

"It's going to be interesting, it's going to take some thought," Samsonov said. "I'll talk to my family and see where we go from here. You kind of just have to let things unfold and see where it takes you."

Coming a win from the Stanley Cup changes the outlook for Samsonov heading into free agency, making Edmonton more appealing.

"It changes it a lot," Samsonov said. "You played here a lot longer than you expected, you made a lot of friends and you make it your home.

"It's going to be interesting, it's going to take some thought, talk to my family and see where we go from here. You kind of just have to let things unfold and see where it takes you."

SEVERAL FREE AGENTS

With a number of unrestricted free agents on the team, the Oilers have their work cut out for them this off-season.

While an extended playoff run might make Edmonton more appealing, players' personal successes may make them tougher to sign.

"It's my hope certainly that we can get everybody back," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.

"That might seem a little unrealistic, I don't know, I'm hopeful that it's not. But we would sure like to start with the same team and maybe add to it.

"Then we would have pretty good expectations that we can win."


Videos

Photos