Oilers forward Jordan Eberle focused on season, not lockout

Oilers forward Jordan Eberle. (PERRY MAH/QMI Agency file photo)

Oilers forward Jordan Eberle. (PERRY MAH/QMI Agency file photo)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:34 AM ET

EDMONTON - With a good summer behind him and a new long-term contract in his pocket, Jordan Eberle is eager to get back to work.

But like every other NHL player, the Edmonton Oilers winger is in a holding pattern, preparing for a season that appears unlikely to start on schedule.

Regardless, Eberle is back in town, skating with a number of his teammates at a south-side arena as if it were business as usual.

"It's nice to come back and see all the guys again and talk about how their summers went," Eberle said.

"But it's definitely a weird feeling coming back when you're not sure when the season is going start. But I'm preparing mentally as if the season is going to start next week."

Eberle spent most of the summer in Calgary, working on his golf game and hitting the gym.

Having finished last season as the Oilers leading scorer with 34 goals and 42 assists for 76 points, expectations are high on the third-year player.

"I feel great ... maybe the best I've ever felt in a while, I'm raring to get going," he said.

"I don't know whether it's because I'm just a year older, but I feel better than I have before. I lifted a lot more weight this year. I just feel a lot bigger and stronger."

Eberle, 22, will be entering the upcoming season in the final year of his entry-level contract.

After that, the six-year, $36-million extension he signed last month will kick in.

"I'm pretty excited; I want to be an Edmonton Oiler for a long term and I think you can tell that with the deal I signed," he said.

"I love playing here, the city is great, the fans are amazing to play in front of and I think we're building something here that's going to be special.

"We have the pieces here, we just have to put everything in place. It's going to be a big year for us and hopefully we can get to playing soon."

There's the rub.

With a lockout looming, it could be some time before Eberle and the Oilers find out exactly what the team's collection of young talent is able to accomplish.

If the league locks out players for an extended period, the Oilers' newest $6-million man could find himself in Oklahoma City, although he hasn't ruled out going to Europe.

"If there is no season, I have to play somewhere," Eberle said.

"Whether it's the American League or Europe, I don't know. I want to play here and hopefully everything works out.

"There's definitely a few options that I have, but right now I want to play for the Oilers and that's kind of my mindset.

"But when the time comes, I'll have to make a decision that's best for me."

With the NHL scheduled to hold their board of governors meetings this week in New York, and the players association taking the opportunity to gather there as well, there's some hope the two sides will come closer to an agreement.

Eberle won't be making the trip to New York, but will keep close tabs on what goes on, considering more than 200 players are expected to be in attendance.

"It's going to be a big week," he said. "You want to play hockey, but at the same time you want to get something that is fair for both sides.

"We have a lot of support within the (players association) and I know a lot of guys are going down for that.

"I've kept tabs on it as much as I can with the information they've given me, but I think there is still a lot to be done and that's why I think there are so many players going down there for support.

"When you have that much support of NHL players and you can go into a room with 300 guys, I think it kind of sends a message."


Videos

Photos