Plante signs with Oilers

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

It wasn't quite a buzzer beater, but the Edmonton Oilers were running out of time to sign Alex Plante.

They had until June 1 to sign the big defenceman, selected 15th overall in the 2007 NHL entry draft, or he'd re-enter the draft and they'd probably lose him for good.

The Oilers lost Matthew Lombardi under similar circumstances in 2002.

A year ago it wouldn't have been a big deal, when an injury-riddled Plante watched his stock tumble into the basement, but a fantastic bounce-back year turned him into a major priority again.

"We're pretty happy," assistant general manager Kevin Prendergast said of the three-year entry-level contract. "He's earned it. He worked really hard this year and did everything we wanted from him. Ask the Hitmen. He turned himself in the right direction. You have to give the kid a lot of credit - he had the guts to go back to Calgary after a really tough season and they wiped the slate clean."

After three consecutive injuries derailed Plante last season and limited him to two points in 36 games, the six-foot-four, 220-pounder had 8-37-45 in 68 games with 157 penalty minutes this year. In the playoffs, he led all Hitmen blueliners with 6-9-15 in 18 games with 41 penalty minutes.

"He has the tools," said Prendergast. "He's come a long way with his foot speed and aggressiveness. He has a long way to go, but he's ready to take the next step in Springfield."

- The Oilers are closing in on a contract with defenceman Denis Grebeshkov, as well.

"We're in the ball park," said Prendergast. "We're not there yet but we're close to having it done."

- Edmonton has one player left from the 2007 draft who has to be signed by June 1, centre Milan Kytnar, who had 64 points in 65 games with the Saskatoon Blades.

"We're pretty close with him as well," said Prendergast.


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