SUN Hockey Pool

Horcoff scores!

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

Shawn Horcoff wanted to stay in Edmonton.

The Edmonton Oilers wanted to keep their first-line centre.

Yesterday, the two came to an agreement, as Horcoff signed a three-year, $10.8-million US deal.

"I'm ecstatic," said Horcoff from his home in Castelgar, B.C.

"My wife and I enjoy Edmonton, I enjoy playing there. I'm happy to get it done and to be there three more years."

Horcoff, 27, had a career-year with the Oilers last season, scoring 22 goals and adding 51 assists in 79 regular-season games.

He also added seven goals and 12 assists in 24 games during the playoffs.

A restricted free agent, Horcoff had filed for salary arbitration after earning $1-million US last season. The two sides were scheduled for a hearing later this month.

"Not at any point did I think I was going to have to go through it," Horcoff said.

"But at the time, with what was going on in Edmonton with the whole (Chris) Pronger situation and the other unrestricted free agents, when the deadline to file for salary arbitration came up, I hadn't even talked to Kevin yet," Horcoff said, referring to Oilers GM Kevin Lowe. "I just did it more for myself to guarantee that I'd be in camp next year and have a contract and be ready to go.

"I figured once we started talking, it wouldn't take long to get it done and that held through."

Horcoff will earn $3.6 million for the next three years, making him the second-highest paid Oiler behind goalie Dwayne Roloson.

"If you look at his comparable players - and comparable players become very important in an arbitration setting - they are all in that range," said Oilers assistant general manager Scott Howson.

"We were pretty comfortable, as was (agent) Pat Brisson and Shawn, that was going to be the range and it was just a matter of hammering out the details."

With Horcoff eligible to become an unrestricted free agent after next season, the Oilers were keen on locking up last season's second-leading scorer long term.

It's also one of the reasons the Oilers did not want to go to salary arbitration.

"An arbitrator award would have only given him a one-year deal," Howson said. "That was more the goal going in to get him on a multi-year deal.

"To get him on a three-year deal was important. He's one of our core guys, he plays 20-minutes a night. He had a great year and a great playoff so it was really important that we kept Shawn here for another three years."

Heading into last season, there were questions as to whether Horcoff could be a first-line centre. He proved he could. This season, the pressure is now on him to maintain his first-line status.

"Every year you have something to prove to yourself and your teammates, you want to continue to get better," Horcoff said.

"Obviously last year was a big step. I'll be coming in a lot more relaxed more than anything. That doesn't mean I'm going to change the way I play or the way I train in the off-season.

"The most pressure I've ever felt was going into last year, knowing that if I wasn't able to produce, that could be my only chance at being a top-line centre.

It'll be a new-look Oiler team that will have to defend their Western Conference championship.

"It's going to be exciting for us," Horcoff said. "We have more scoring up front and we're real solid in goal with Roli and Markkanen.

"Our defence, we're solid there, too. We're going to need our young guys to step up and play a more prominent role and if they can do that, we're going to be fine."


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