Lowe has more restricted free agents in his sights

DEREK VAN DIEST

, Last Updated: 7:01 AM ET

Negotiations on a new contract had begun in November.

The Edmonton Oilers wanted Tom Gilbert to be part of their core. And with yesterday's announcement of a six-year, $24-million contract, they have him locked up.

Now it's a matter of getting the rest of the restricted free agents signed.

"We have Denis (Grebeshkov) and Joni's (Pitkanen) contracts coming up," said Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe. "We have (Robert) Nilsson, (Marc) Pouliot and (Jarret) Stoll. So there's lots of work to do and that's pretty much the norm in the NHL."

Grebeshkov and Pitkanen are two keys on the back end for the Oilers.

Both completed their first season with the Oilers. Pitkanen, 24, finished the year with eight goals and 18 assists in 63 games - second to Gilbert in defensive scoring.

ENORMOUS POTENTIAL

The Oulu, Finland, native has enormous offensive potential, but struggled with injuries this year. He made $2.4-million last season.

Grebeshkov, 24, struggled early in the year, but then, essentially out of necessity, developed into a solid two-way defenceman. The native of Yaroslavl, Russia, made $950,00 last season.

"We haven't had any serious contract talks with Joni yet, but I think we'll be fine," Lowe said. "We've had in the majority of the time that ability to come to common ground with agents historically. And now that Rick (Olczyk) is here, I think it'll happen even more often."

'EXTREMELY PREPARED'

Olczyk was hired as the Oilers director of hockey administration and legal affairs last summer. He was directly involved in the Gilbert negotiations.

"Ricky Olczyk is extremely prepared," said Gilbert's agent Justin Duberman.

"We've gone through every possible scenario with pretty much every defenceman who's remotely in his category.

"As time went on throughout the year, guys drop out of that group, guys join in that group, guys sign. At the end of the day we were just trying to do what we thought was best."


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