Comrie gets another chance

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

Once the most despised figure in town, Mike Comrie is back.

The local product, who had to wait the entire summer as an unsigned unrestricted free agent, inked a one-year, $1.125-million deal with the Edmonton Oilers.

The move, which had been rumoured for the past few weeks, and appears to have owner Daryl Katz's fingerprints all over it, was announced yesterday.

"We had spoken for some time if we had a chance to add some depth to the position and if it made sense, we would consider it," said Oilers GM Steve Tambellini. "I spoke to Mike a few days before and got a sense of where he was at. It seemed like he was very determined on a couple of fronts. One was to re-establish himself as a good player in the league and to re-establish himself in a market where he's had some success -- and obviously some controversy.

"But he was eager for that type of challenge, which told us that he was hungry, focused, and willing to take a risk in order to be a good player in a market where he feels very accountable."

Comrie, who turns 29 today, was originally drafted by the Oilers, 91st overall in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft.

Contract differences saw the local product play a portion of his first season with the Kootenay Ice before suiting with his hometown club.

Comrie spent parts of three seasons in Edmonton, before a bitter and public spat with then GM Kevin Lowe saw him shipped out of town to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Comrie's most productive season was in Edmonton, scoring 33 goals and adding 27 assists during the 2001-2002 season. He followed that up with a 51-point season, before his falling out with Lowe, making him a target for Oilers fans whenever he would show up with a visiting team. And there have been a lot of them; he's been with Phoenix, the N.Y. Islanders and Ottawa Senators since then.

"When I left here, I never criticized the fans, saying that they shouldn't boo, shouldn't do this or shouldn't do that," Comrie said. "I always said I was once one of those fans who did that. Fans pay their hard-earned money for tickets and I hope to earn their respect back. And I realize that the last six years were not easy on me. I wasn't a fan favourite in Edmonton, but having this chance to work hard and help this team -- all I ask for is a chance."

Last season, Comrie started the year with the Islanders on a one-year, $4-million deal. He was traded to the Senators midway through the season. Between the two teams, he finished with 10 goals and 17 assists in 63 games. After going unsigned throughout the summer, Comrie was anxious to find a team.

"It was one of those things where it was coming down to the wire and I had to make a decision and this was one that I felt was right," said Comrie. "It's a time of my life where I'm excited about it. I got chills walking back into this rink (Rexall Place) and it's been a while since I felt that way."

As a free agent, Comrie has been skating in town with a number of Oilers in preparation for the upcoming season.

His signing currently puts the Oilers over the salary cap.

"Is there some risk? Absolutely, he's had some injury and his play is probably not where he wanted it to be in the last couple of years, but that's a chance we were willing to take," Tambellini said. "I've seen him play internationally, we've seen him play at a high standard at the NHL (level) and we've also seen the other side, and I think he's been very honest about that."

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA


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