Apparently, not everyone is in a big hurry to get out of Edmonton.
Conn Smythe candidates Dwayne Roloson and Fernando Pisani could have easily struck it rich on the open markets, auctioning their playoff heroics to the highest bidder as unrestricted free agents.
All they had to do was wait a few hours and let the offers pour in. They didn't. Two of the most important pieces in the Oilers' drive to the Stanley Cup final committed to Edmonton without even bothering to check whether another club was willing to buck up more.
"We didn't really want to test the market,'' said Pisani, who inked a four-year deal worth a reported $10 million on Friday night, 12 hours before he would have been an unrestricted free agent. "We felt we could get something done with Edmonton and we were happy to do that.''
Five more minutes and Roloson would have been fielding offers from across the league. But at 9:55 yesterday morning he and the Oilers settled on a three-year, $11-million contract. He will make $4 million in each of the first two years and $3 million in his third year.
ENVISIONING NEXT SEASON
"We're trying to envision what our team will look like next year,'' said GM Kevin Lowe, thrilled to lock up two of his three priority players before the July 1 deadline (Jaroslav Spacek hasn't ruled out a return, but wants to see what the market has to offer).
"So having Roli and Fernando signed is very stabilizing.''
If Chris Pronger's desire to get out tarnishes Edmonton's reputation in the eyes of the uninformed, Pisani and Roloson are further evidence that most of the character guys who've played here don't want to leave. Pisani, of course, was born in this city, but says he'd be stuck on the Oil no matter where he was from.
"There's a great group of core guys here,'' said the 29-year-old winger. "Jason Smith, Ethan Moreau, Steve Staios, Ryan Smyth, Shawn Horcoff. They're all good guys and good friends and you always want to be around people you like and have a good relationship with. That's why Edmonton has always been my first choice.
"We're excited to get it done as early as we did. Edmonton was always my first choice. Our family is excited and I'm really excited. It's been a fun process.''
ORIGINALLY A LONG SHOT
No kidding. Pisani, who led the playoffs with 14 goals, more than tripled last year's $611,000 salary.
He came to Edmonton as a long shot and an afterthought (drafted 195th overall in 1996), then worked his way up to a top-six forward with a seven-figure salary.
"It was a long, hard road,'' he said, pulling up to the conference table at the Oilers' office yesterday.
"I think anything worth having you have to work for and I think I've done a good job of working my way up and proving to people, to the Oilers staff, to myself, that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to.''
With the raise comes more responsibility.
"No question,'' said Lowe.
"He's going to be paid more money so he's going to take a more prominent role on our team, and is ready for that step.
''We can see him playing more than the 13 minutes he's averaged the last few years.''
In wrapping up Roloson, the Oilers have finally put the goaltending problems that haunted them for the last few seasons to bed.
"What we went through last season, we didn't want to repeat that,'' said Lowe. "We wanted to get off on the right foot at the beginning of the year.
"He's proving he can be a No.1 and play the minutes.
''He played 17 games in a row down the stretch and didn't seem to wear down, and every game in the playoffs till he got hurt.''
Roloson, 36, wanted a four-year deal, but, like Pisani, settled for a little less in Edmonton.