SUN Hockey Pool

Oiler future looks bright

Shawn Horcoff knows the pieces are in place for an exciting team in Edmonton. SUN MEDIA/Darryl Dyck

Shawn Horcoff knows the pieces are in place for an exciting team in Edmonton. SUN MEDIA/Darryl Dyck

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

Back when Kevin Lowe played, they put a bite in a carrot in every Stanley Cup ring to try to keep the Edmonton Oilers together for a good time for a long time.

It doesn't work that way these days.

You have to do it all in advance of winning anything.

If you haven't seen Kevin Lowe's Edmonton Oiler big picture strategy developing along the way you can certainly see it now with the signing of Shawn Horcoff to a six-year contract extension through 2014-15 worth $33 million US.

"This team has a lot of upside right now and I see the fruits of that sooner than later," said Horcoff. "I'm thrilled with the direction in which the team is headed. I'm so excited with the new ownership and the moves we've made."

PIECES ARE IN PLACE

Horcoff said he looks around him and knows the pieces are in place with the core players in place long term to have a real success story here.

"With the core group of guys signed, we're going to be able to do that."

Lubomir Visnovski and Tom Gilbert are signed through 2012-13. Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner, and Sheldon Souray are under contract through 2011-12. Robert Nilsson, Steve Staios and Ethan Moreau are signed through 2010-2011.

"The thing Kevin has done is keep guys around who took that run to the Stanley Cup final three years ago. I truly believe we're going to be back to that with this core group, not just short-term but long- term.

"Free agency is about choosing and controlling your destiny. Obviously I thought a lot about it. I believe there are 12 teams with the young guys to have a realistic chance. I strongly feel Edmonton is one of those teams. And today the fans and the Edmonton community need to know exactly how I feel."

Obviously the feeling is mutual in all those directions.

"We feel we have something special here," said Oilers VP of hockey operations Kevin Prendergast.

"Shawn is one of our leaders. And it's something Kevin Lowe has done with the key players on our team. We know these players and their work ethic. These are the guys you have to build your hockey club around and the guys who need to teach the young guys how to get there. We consider Shawn a leader and a mainstay."

GM Lowe offered a statement.

"By being proactive with this deal we avoid being in a situation where Shawn could have been an unrestricted free agent after next season and the unknown free agency can bring to the future."

Which means Lowe doesn't intend to go through a Ryan Smyth situation again with a player who wants to go wire to wire with his career here.

Horcoff is making a significant statement about himself and this city in doing this deal and taking a pass on the real riches (not that $33 million is chump change) of free agency.

"Edmonton is a great city which embraced myself and our family in every way," he said. "I've been with this team for eight years now. I can't tell you how well we've been treated in Edmonton, from the people and the fans. We love it and the plan has been to stay here as long as we could.

"For us it was a no-brainer. Both sides wanted to be part of what we're doing here for a long time. We looked at five years and seven years and decided it made sense to go six years. My mind was made up to stay here a long time ago."

IMPRESSED BY KATZ

If it wasn't, Horcoff said it was the day he was in constant contact with new owner Daryl Katz trying to sign Marian Hossa, his lockout year teammate in Sweden.

"It almost has everything to do with it," he said. "I actually knew Daryl on a personal level. I got really excited knowing he's going to go the extra mile. Get the players the team needs. I now have a lot of trust in that guy as a person and an owner to be able to do that. He did a lot of good things to try get Hossa here. And if it hadn't been Detroit it would have been us."

Horcoff is determined to end his career here and not when this contract ends.

"I still feel the best years are ahead of me and that I'm just coming into my prime now. At the end of this deal I'll be 36.

"That'll be my motivation. I don't see this as my last deal here."


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