SUN Hockey Pool

Vets know help on way

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 7:55 AM ET

They won't be glued to their TVs when GMs get the green light to start throwing barrels of cash at unrestricted free agents tomorrow, but Edmonton Oilers veterans scattered all over North America and Europe are as nervous and excited about July 1 as their fans are.

"Everybody gets pretty interested when July 1 comes around, but it's especially true with our team and the situation we're in," said Jarret Stoll.

"We need some guys. We have some holes on our team that we're going to fill. Any time you're in that situation you get a lot more interested."

Despite winning just twice in their last 20 games and finishing 25th overall, the Oilers aren't a complete mess - a ridiculous run of injuries and a room full of broken spirits down the stretch combined to make the program look much more desperate than it is - but they're not a couple of breaks away from making another run, either.

If they don't add two or three impact players, there's no chance they'll even compete for a playoff spot.

The next few weeks, if not the next few days, could make or break their season, and the suspense is killing them.

"We're excited," said Stoll. "We know Kevin (Lowe)is going to go out and get guys, he's going to make it work.

"I can't wait to see what happens," he added.

Neither can Steve Staios, who's recovering in Hamilton from his knee surgery. He, like most people in the hockey world, knows that Edmonton's reputation took a big hit since Chris Pronger backed out of his deal here, and is as interested as anyone to see how it impacts the Oilers.

"With things that were said last year about Edmonton, there's a little bit of a concern about players not wanting to come here as free agents," he said. "I don't think they get it from players who have been here for a while because we all think it's a great place to play. I guess we'll find out soon enough."

He remains confident, though, that one way or another the Oilers will be better armed than they were last year.

"We all saw what Kevin did for us two years ago, how he set us up going into a year when he felt we were ready to make a run at it. We feel confident that he knows our needs and he's going to address them."


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