Top line set to return ...

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

They'll be together again.

They'll be together for a while.

The Edmonton Oilers ensured their top offensive unit would be back this season with yesterday's signing of winger Ales Hemsky.

Hemsky signed a six-year, $24.6-million agreement with the Oilers yesterday. Shawn Horcoff signed a three-year, $10.8-million deal earlier this month. Ryan Smyth has one year left on his contract paying him $3.5-million next season.

"It's exciting to know we're all coming back," said Horcoff. "I don't think any of us doubted we wouldn't be back. But it's good to see that we're signed and now we can focus on the upcoming season."

Centring Hemsky and Smyth for most of the season on the Oilers' first line, Horcoff had a career year, scoring 22 goals and adding 51 assist for 73 points in 79 games.

Horcoff finished second in team scoring behind Hemsky who netted 19 goals and 58 assists for 77 points in 81 games - also a career high. Smyth led the team with 36 goals and added 30 assists to finish with 66 points.

"Ales is in line with what Shawn and Ryan will be making next year," said Oilers assistant general manager Scott Howson. "That's where he belongs. They're a pretty good threesome and they all had outstanding years."

Hemsky's deal will pay him $3.5-million this season. Horcoff will make $3.6-million. Only goaltender Dwayne Roloson at $4-million makes more.

"We've always had sort of a pecking order," said Howson. "We'll deal with Ryan as we move forward. Ryan signed a contract last year in a very uncertain market. I'm sure he was pleased and we were pleased that we were able to get that done. But he's still in his low 30s and he'll have lots of kicks at the can before he's done."

Having Hemsky inked for the next six years means - barring a trade - he'll ride shotgun for the duration of Horcoff's contract. "I look forward to continuing to play with him and hopefully we can build on what we did this season," said Horcoff.

HOLES TO FILL: The Oilers are looking pretty good up front. But on the back end, there are still holes to fill.

"We realize it could be an area of concern," said Howson. "But we also think we have some real talented players there that have a chance to be good NHL players. Whether they'll be good NHL players right away remains to be seen, but it looks like they'll be given that opportunity in training camp."


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