EDMONTON - When it was Jordan Eberle’s turn to be seated, he glanced over at Taylor Hall’s plate, took a big whiff and said “Yeah, I’ll have what he’s having.”
And why not, $6 million a year tastes as good as it looks.
“I saw Taylor get his (contract) done and when they came after me to get mine done, there was a lot of excitement,” said the freshly inked cornerstone, after Oilers GM Steve Tambellini whipped him up the same dish he served Hall eight days earlier.
“I’m happy to be an Oiler. I want to be here for a while. With the direction the team is going, with a couple acquisitions this summer (Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz) and everyone being a year older, we’re going to be a team that’s going to have a reputation for winning here in a little bit. There’s no other way to put it, we’re both excited to be here.”
These are definitely a couple of statement contracts for an Oilers program on its way back from a very dark place. The days of grooming great young players only to lose them at auction when they mature appear to be over. The Oilers can afford to pay their best guys and their best guys want to stay.
“It sends a message to our players that some of our best young players are so committed to being here in Edmonton,” said Tambellini. “It’s not like they were looking for a two-year extension, they were willing to talk about committing the next seven or eight years here in Edmonton. That’s the type of commitment we need to get everybody on board.”
When some of the best young talent in hockey is just as excited about being in Edmonton as they are about earning $78 million between them, that’s saying something — something along the lines of, “Chew on that, Heatley and Pronger.”
“We’re saying that we want to be here, me and Taylor want to be a part of this team for a while,” said Eberle. “That’s why we signed this way. It locks you up with the team you want to be with for a significant amount of time.”
Landing the same deal (Eberle will be a $6-million man for six seasons, Hall for seven) was everyone’s plan from the start. Eberle’s camp kept close tabs on Hall’s contract talks, knowing he’d be getting the same kind of money.
“For us it was important that we get the same term and money,” said Eberle. “We want to be judged the same, much like Kane and Toews (each make $6.3 million in Chicago), Malkin and Crosby (each make $8.7 million in Pittsburgh). It signifies we’re together as a team moving forward.”
Eberle, a steal at 22nd overall in the 2008 Entry Draft, was Edmonton’s best player last season, leading the team in goals with 34 and points with 76 and making the NHL All-Star game in his sophomore season.
He delivers the most important element in the game: goals.
“He deserves it, he’s an incredible player and an incredible person,” said Tambellini, who believes we still haven’t seen the best of the 22-year-old from Regina. “I think he’s just beginning, I really do. I think we’re just starting to see what Jordan Eberle is going to become.”
There is still proving to be done, though, before six years and $36 million can be declared a good or bad deal. They both understand that.
“Obviously there’s a lot of pressure that goes along with it, but at the same time I’m going to go out there and do the exact same thing,” said Eberle. “I’ve had a huge summer of training, the best I’ve had in a long time. I don’t know whether it’s because I’m getting older and getting my man strength but I’m a lot stronger than I’ve ever been. I’m excited for a new season.
“Also as a team the excitement level is there. This is going to be a huge year for us.”
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