SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers sign veteran D-man

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

Jason Strudwick knows this city can get hot for homegrown players.

Edmonton has been known to eat its own.

But the veteran defenceman figures the benefits of playing with the Edmonton Oilers outweigh the pressures associated with being "local talent."

"I used to go to Oilers games all the time," said Strudwick, Edmonton's latest free agent signing.

"For me it was a dream to play for them, but I never got the chance.

"Over the years I've talked to some guys about what it's like playing with the Oilers if you're from there, and I guess there is some pressure.

"But I'm not expected to go out there and score 30 goals or something, so I don't think it will be too bad. I'm just expected to go out and play my game."

Strudwick, 32, an Archbishop MacDonald graduate, signed a one-year contract with the Oilers yesterday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The six-foot-four, 225-pounder spent parts of the previous three seasons with the New York Rangers.

He's also played with the New York Islanders, Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks.

"It'll be nice to play where I was born and raised and where my family is and all my friends are. This is home. I come back here every summer."

Originally a third-round pick of the Islanders, Strudwick played his junior hockey in Kamloops, winning a pair of Memorial Cup titles with the Blazers.

His most productive NHL season offensively was in 2005-2006 with the Rangers when he scored three goals and added four assists in 65 games.

Strudwick wasn't brought in for his scoring prowess, however.

He'll replace the muscle that Matt Greene took with him to Los Angeles in the Lubomir Visnovsky trade at the end of June.

"Jason is a veteran NHL defenceman who will add depth and a physical presence on our blue-line," said the Oilers vice-president of hockey operations Kevin Pendergast.

"A proven leader, he is excited to be returning to his hometown to play and we are looking forward to having him as part of our defensive corps."

Strudwick's signing brings the number of defenceman under contract to eight. Visnovsky, Sheldon Souray, Tom Gilbert and Steve Staios are expected to occupy the first four spots on the blue-line.

Strudwick should also be in the mix, along with Denis Grebeshkov, Ladislav Smid and Mathieu Roy for the remaining two spots in the lineup.

"I've been keeping track of the moves the Oilers have been making this year," Strudwick said.

"And even if I wasn't from Edmonton, it would be exciting to come here because I think we're going to have an excellent team."


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