SUN Hockey Pool

Not too fast for Tommy

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:01 AM ET

Tom Gilbert could have waited for the offers to come in.

It's likely he would have received some from other teams around the league.

If only to spite Edmonton Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe, who rocked the boat last summer by going after a couple of restricted free agents.

However, Gilbert decided to put pen to paper now and came to terms on a new six-year, $24-million deal with the Oilers announced yesterday.

It is expected Robert Nilsson will follow suit at $5.5-million for three years, although that's yet to be made official.

"I never wanted it to go that far," Gilbert said. "I wanted to be here and it couldn't have been better timing. I'm 100% happy with how it turned out."

The new contract will keep the 25-year-old defenceman in Edmonton through the 2013-2014 season. The contract - which averages out to $4 million per season - is a significant increase from the $835,000 he made last year. Yet the Oilers are hoping his value far exceeds his salary by the time the contract expires.

'UPPER-ECHELON'

"This is a very important signing for our organization," said Lowe. "Tom has developed into an upper-echelon defenceman. This contract, particularly the length, gives me a great deal of satisfaction knowing that he's going to be here for a lot of years. We anticipate he's going to be a real pillar of the franchise."

Gilbert had an outstanding rookie season for the Oilers. The Bloomington, Minn., product broke a franchise record for goals and points by a rookie defenceman.

He finished the year with 13 goals and 20 assists, which was 10th among all rookies in the NHL this season. Gilbert was also voted the Oilers defenceman of the year and was named to Team USA for the upcoming World Hockey Championships in Halifax and Quebec City.

"I wanted to be here," Gilbert said. "I couldn't ask for a better situation to be in right now. Playing in Canada is awesome, especially playing in Edmonton. And being here for six more years is a thrill and I'm excited to come back next year.

"I think we have everything we need to win a championship here and it's exciting to be a part of that."

Gilbert was originally obtained by the Oilers in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche for goaltender Tommy Salo, and a sixth-round pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.

He had been the Avalanche's fifth pick - 129th overall - in the 2002 draft.

Prior to turning pro, Gilbert played four seasons with the University of Wisconsin Badgers, scoring the winning goal in their 2006 NCAA Championship victory over Boston College.

Last season he played 48 games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League, scoring four goals and adding 26 assists in 48 games.

He was called up late in the year and played 12 games with the Oilers, scoring a goal and adding five assists.

This season Gilbert had a strong campaign and really came to the forefront during the club's late season surge.

"The way we finished, it looks really promising here," Gilbert said. "It was fun for me all year. Now to get to be here for six more years is great, I couldn't be happier."

As a restricted free agent, Gilbert was expected to garner some interest from other teams, especially considering the Oilers are looked upon as targets this off-season due to the offer sheets they presented Thomas Vanek of the Buffalo Sabres and Anaheim Ducks winger Dustin Penner.

The Sabres matched the Vanek offer, while the Ducks decided to let Penner go.

COULD HAVE WAITED

Gilbert could have waited for offers from other teams this summer and still signed with the Oilers if he chose to.

"I wasn't scared to wait. In fact I welcomed the opportunity to do that," said Gilbert's agent Justin Duberman. "But as I've always said to Tom, that if you can find a situation that works and the player is thrilled to be here and you can figure out a way to stay here, then you do it.

"At the end of the day, would there have been an offer sheet for him? Maybe, maybe not. I've certainly not had any of those discussions with teams. But this is a deal Tommy really wanted and today it looks like a great deal for him."


Videos

Photos