Young guns under contract

BOB STAUFFER

, Last Updated: 7:09 AM ET

It is indeed a new day for the Edmonton Oilers organization.

After years of being a breeding ground for players, who developed, became stars, and then priced themselves out of Edmonton, things have certainly changed.

For the third consecutive off-season the Oil and GM Kevin Lowe locked down a young gun with a high-priced long-term deal.

In 2006, it was offensive tour de force Ales Hemsky signing a six-year deal.

Last summer it was the controversial RFA signing of Dustin Penner to a five-year deal.

Yesterday Lowe was back it with a six-year deal for defenceman Tom Gilbert.

The Oilers are quickly changing the perception of Edmonton being a have-not franchise.

Fact is they ceased to be a have-not organization when the lock-out ended during the summer of 2005.

For the second consecutive season the Oil sold out every game and with the thriving Canadian dollar the Oilers are again amongst the top-ten revenue generating organizations in the NHL.

The fact that they have done this with one of the oldest buildings in the league, and a team that is not yet in the NHL's elite, speaks volumes about Edmonton as a market, and the job the business operations side of the Oilers have done.

With billionaire Daryl Katz soon to be sole owner of the club, and a new building in a hockey-mad market on the horizon, the Oilers are only going to get stronger.

That new found strength is further reinforced when the team shows the willingness to pay for tomorrow as in the case of Hemsky, Penner and Gilbert.

This changes perception in the hockey world, helps educate the players and should have a residual effect with free agents down the road.

Template?

With Gilbert on board now for the next six seasons there could be a collateral effect for RFA Joni Pitkanen.

Clearly Pitkanen, is the most talented Oilers defenceman, but he remains an enigma.

The coaches aren't sure when he is able to go, the players aren't sure if he has their back, and apparently many of you aren't sure of what he is asking for in terms of a long-term deal.

If all Pitkanen wanted was a four or five-year contract at $4-4.5 million a season my guess is the deal would have already been done.

The question is, do you pay Pitkanen more than $5.0M a season to get him signed to a long-term deal?

Lowe is in a tricky position here because based upon this past season, do the Oilers even really know what they have in the Finnish defender?

HOCKEY WASTELAND

Just got back from Anaheim where it was almost impossible to find an NHL game on the tube.

The NHL's decision to move from ESPN to Versus continues to amaze any rational thinking person.

When the NHL had the ABC/ESPN connection it benefited from having placement with one of the big U.S. networks, plus ESPN which is the big dog amongst U.S. specialty stations.

Most Hotels throughout the U.S. carry ESPN, ESPNews and ESPN Classic, but good luck finding Versus anywhere.

What is ironic is that Versus is owned by Comcast, and Comcast's Chairman is Ed Snider, the owner of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Hmmm ...

As it stands now the NHL is benefiting from a strong Canadian dollar and sold-out Canadian arenas to prop up the bottom tier of League franchises.

This won't last forever, nor should a bad U.S. cable deal.


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