SUN Hockey Pool

For Petr's sake!

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

For better or worse, it's almost a done deal.

A contract between the Edmonton Oilers and unrestricted free agent Petr Sykora isn't done yet, but completing the ink on a deal that will land the Czech winger in Oilers silks is a formality.

Take that to the bank.

Amid much speculation about Edmonton's interest in Sykora and spirited debate among fans about the merits of striking a pact with the seven-time 20-goal scorer, indications are talks between the Oilers and agent Ritch Winter have progressed to the point where the announcement of a deal, likely for one year, will come soon.

It's not a matter of if, but when.

"We're getting closer," assistant GM Scott Howson, who has been GM Kevin Lowe's point man in negotiations, acknowledged yesterday.

While Howson declined to elaborate on 'getting closer' and wouldn't discuss details, it's believed the 29-year-old Sykora, who split last season between Anaheim and the New York Rangers, is set to put his name to a one-year deal for something in the range of $3 million.

From this corner of the rink, this is a signing that makes sense for the Oilers, even if there's some knocks on Sykora - most notably that he doesn't bring his A-game every night.

Maybe so, but there's no denying the six-foot, 190-pound Sykora is a proven scorer in this league and that he's got the ability to help rejuvenate an Oilers power play that is going to feel the loss of Chris Pronger.

Sykora, who was originally drafted 18th overall by New Jersey in 1995 and earned $3.11 million with Anaheim and New York last season, has 512 points, including 225 goals, in 682 regular season NHL games with the Devils, Anaheim and the Rangers.

He's been no slouch in the playoffs, either, adding 26-33-59 in 88 post-season games.

Sykora's best season was 2000-01 with the Devils, when he scored 35-46-81 and was a plus-36. Speaking of plus-minus, Sykora, labelled by critics as weak defensively, is plus-77 for his career.

It's also fair to cast a wary eye at Sykora's offensive totals since 2000-01.

He slipped to 21-27-48 in 2001-02, tallied in 34-25-59 in 2002-03, scored 23-29-52 in 2003-04 and had 23-28-51 last season - 7-13-20 in 34 games with Anaheim and 16-15-31 in 40 games with the Rangers.

Flaws and all, Sykora certainly fits into Craig MacTavish's top six forwards along with Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff, Ryan Smyth, Jarret Stoll and Joffrey Lupul.

The question, with Hemsky, Lupul and Sykora all being right wingers by trade, is where everybody fits on the first two lines, although Sykora can play either wing and pivot in a pinch.

Given the advanced state of negotiations with Sykora and Winter, we'll find out at training camp.


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