Chasing Strudwick an easy call

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:11 AM ET

On character alone, it probably would have been a good idea to bring back defenceman Jason Strudwick for another season.

The local product was a big hit in the Edmonton Oilers locker-room with players, coaches and the media.

But he also proved to be a big utility player, used both on the blue-line and up front.

"Jason, I think, surprised people with his play last year," said Oilers GM Steve Tambellini. "Maybe more importantly was the fact he's got character, he's disciplined on and off the ice and he sets a great example for our young people. He's always positive and I like the way he handles pressure and the tough things. He sets a good example."

Strudwick, 33, signed a one-year extension with the Oilers on Wednesday. He's expected to play a similar role with the team as he did last season.

"I was not surprised with the way Jason played last year," Tambellini said.

"I think one of the things that might have surprised Jason was perhaps the amount of ice time he had, but he earned it. He over-delivered in a lot of areas and he's a valuable player to our team."

The Oilers are now expected to turn their attention to signing Denis Grebeshkov, who is a restricted free agent. Ladislav Smid, who was part of the attempted deal to bring in Dany Heatley from Ottawa, also has to sign.

"We're going through the steps, first the draft, then free agency and going from there," Tambellini said. "I know (assistant GM) Ricky (Olczyk) and his (Grebeshkov's) agent have had some talks, so I don't see there being any problems there getting him signed."

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA


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