On a team looking to purge most of their veterans, he was one they wanted to have back.
There are few more personable players and better influences in the dressing room than Jason Strudwick, whom the Edmonton Oilers re-signed to a one-year contract on Friday.
“I made it no secret that I really enjoy playing for the Oilers,” Strudwick said. “I’m very proud to wear the jersey and want to be a part of this process to get the team back up to where I think it should be.
“I didn’t want to leave and go to another city. I’ve done that a few times in my career before. I definitely wanted to stay in Edmonton this year.”
With a number of fresh faces coming into the fold next season, the Oilers needed someone to help point the kids in the right direction. They also need Strudwick to provided much-needed depth on the blue-line.
“We’re going to have a lot of young players, not only with the new ones that are coming in, but the current ones we have,” Strudwick said. “There are a lot of young guys. I don’t think I need to tell them how to play hockey. If they need some insight in that regard, the coaches will be there for that, and to rein them in if need be.
“The older guys will be there to provide a steady hand and be a calming influence and try to help the kids out in whatever they may need, whether that’s just advice on how to handle situations on the ice or off the ice, that’s what we’re here for.”
On a team trying to rebuild from the ground up, despite being a 15-year veteran, Strudwick is a good fit.
Former Oilers head coach Pat Quinn liken him to the Pied Piper, the way younger players gravitated towards him last season. He finished the year with six assists and 50 penalty minutes in 72 games.
“Obviously last year didn’t go the way anyone anticipated,” said Strudwick.
“There’s been a lot of changes this year and I’m really quite excited as a player to come back and maybe we can redeem ourselves.”
It’ll be a vastly different dressing room this season as Oilers GM Steve Tambellini is making good on the vow to change the culture of a club that finished last in the NHL standings for the first time in franchise history.
They’ve already unloaded a number of players to make room for the new arrivals; the latest appears to be defenceman Sheldon Souray, whom the Oilers put on waivers Friday.
“Some of the guys that left were good friends of mine, so I hate to see them go and I hope where they land, they’re going to do really well. I’m sure they will,” Strudwick said. “I expect our team to be more of an up-tempo team. I expect us to be a lot more aggressive group of players in general and I think it’ll just be more predictable the effort we’re going to get every night.”
Strudwick was one of three Oilers to become unrestricted free agents on Thursday. Prior to signing with the club, he had not heard much on what their plans for him moving forward were.
“I think everyone took some time after the season and revaluated where they were at,” he said. “Obviously they wanted to make some changes. I’ve been through this a lot of times and I think the best thing to do was to just be patient. I was just patient and waited to hear what they were thinking.”
Petiot adds to D depth
The Oilers also signed minor-league defenceman Richard Petiot to a one-year contract. A native of Daysland, Petiot, 27, had three goals and 11 assists in 14 games with the Toronto Marlies last season.