Long term looks like good time to Nilsson

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:25 AM ET

Robert Nilsson senses the Edmonton Oilers are on the verge of something big.

And he wants to be a part of it.

"We have a lot of young guys," Nilsson said yesterday from Stockholm, Sweden. "It's not like three or four players are young, we have 10 to 15 good, young players. That's exactly why I wanted to play a long time for Edmonton, because I think we have a lot of high-end talent."

Yesterday the Oilers announced they had come to terms with Nilsson on a three-year contract extension worth $6-million. The contract will pay him $1.5-million next year, $2-million the following season and $2.5-million in the final year.

He's the second restricted free agent the Oilers have signed in the last two days, having locked up defenceman Tom Gilbert for six years on Friday.

"I'm very, very glad, Edmonton is exactly where I want to play and I'm very glad that I signed a three-year deal. I know I'm going to be there for that time if I do my job," Nilsson said.

"We had a lot of players that had great years, but I think it's going to be even better next year or two years from now and I want to be part of that. I love playing with the guys I'm playing with and I wanted to sign as long as possible."

Nilsson, 23, had a career season with 10 goals and 31 assists in 71 games.

He started the year off slow, spending time in the minors, before developing into one of the Oilers biggest offensive threats.

He finished sixth in team scoring and had the third-most assists on the club.

His play in the late stages of the season was credited as one of the reasons for the Oilers surge, which fell just short of a playoff spot. The Oilers ended the year on a 14-5-1 run.

"I was a different player at the end of the season than I was at the start,"

Nilsson said. "I want to keep evolving. I want to be a complete player and I think (head coach) Craig MacTavish and the other coaches have helped me a lot.

"I think I still have some work to do and hopefully I can have a better season next year."

The Oilers acquired Nilsson - son of former NHLer Kent - in a trade with the New York Islanders along with prospect Ryan O'Marra and a first-round pick for Ryan Smyth.

Nilsson, was originally the Islanders first pick - 15th overall - in the 2003 draft. He's currently in Stockholm preparing for Team Sweden's training camp for the upcoming World Hockey Championships.

Nilsson is looking to crack the roster for the tournament taking place in Halifax and Quebec City in May.

"I wanted to make a deal now before the World Championships so I wouldn't have to focus on anything else," he said.

"I'm glad we were able to get it done so quickly. I'm hoping I'm able to make the national team. I'm looking forward to the tournament especially this year because it's in Canada."


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