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Draisaitl signs eight-year contract with Oilers

21-year-old forward's deal has average annual value of $8.5 million

by Derek Van Diest / Correspondent

EDMONTON -- Leon Draisaitl signed an eight-year, $68 million contract with the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday.

"For me, it was never a question of going anywhere else or signing anywhere else," the 21-year-old forward said. "That never even crossed my mind. I wanted to stay in Edmonton, I feel very comfortable there. I think we have a great group of guys and we're building something special."

Draisaitl was a restricted free agent. The contract, which has an average annual value of $8.5 million, runs through the 2024-25 season.

He had NHL career highs in goals (29), assists (48), points (77), power-play goals (10), power-play points (27), game-winning goals (five), overtime goals (three) and rating (plus-7) last season. He was second on the Oilers in goals, assists and points behind center Connor McDavid in each category.

The Oilers signed McDavid, their captain, to an eight-year, $100 million contract extension ($12.5 million average annual value) on July 5. He is signed through the 2025-26 season.

Video: Leon Draisaitl signs eight-year deal with Oilers

McDavid, 20, led the NHL in scoring last season with 100 points (30 goals, 70 assists) in 82 games and won the Art Ross Trophy, Hart Memorial Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award.

"I think we want to be the go-to guys," Draisaitl said. "Connor is undoubtedly the leader of our group, and if I can help in any way, I'll do that. I think we as a whole group, not only Connor and myself, we're ready to take the next steps. I think we enjoy playing with each other, we like being around each other, so I'm very excited to be back."

Edmonton's one-two punch at center will certainly draw comparisons to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"We all like to make comparisons and you've heard the phrase that we're a copycat league," general manager Peter Chiarelli told NHL Network. "I like to think of these two as unique players and specifically on Leon, he's a big, strong kid, good on faceoffs. I guess there are parts of his game you can compare to Malkin, but I just see a heavy player who really excelled in his first playoff. And he's a guy who can play the wing.

"Leon embraced it when we asked him to go the wing. He embraced it and he excelled at it. So I think we've got a kind of positive double-whammy here and I look forward to these guys in Edmonton for a while."

Video: EDM@ANA, Gm5: Draisaitl buries quick one-timer

With two players set to earn a total of $21.5 million annually starting with the 2018-19 season, the Oilers could face NHL salary cap problems down the road. Chiarelli believes building through the NHL Draft will help ease Draisailt and McDavid's cap charges.

"I don't think it's about creative," Chiarelli said. "I think it's just about being diligent and ramping up to the extent we can our amateur scouting and just getting players in. We'd like to grow this so getting players in that aren't necessarily always young but are homegrown.

"It's a challenge, but we feel we can do it. We've bolstered our scouting staff and we look forward to doing it."

Draisaitl was eighth in the NHL in points during the regular season and had 19 points (five goals, 14 assists) during an 11-game point streak from March 14-April 4. He helped the Oilers make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2006 and led them in postseason goals (six), assists (10) and points (16). The Oilers lost in seven games to the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Second Round.

"I think we have the right pieces in the right places," Draisaitl said. "Now, it's just a matter of us as a group to bring it every night."

Chiarelli never worried about Draisaitl not agreeing to a contract.

"We were always certain we were going to have him signed," Chiarelli told the Oilers website. "We maintained a dialogue on a consistent basis, and when you're talking through these things and you're establishing each other's positions -- your own positions -- and hearing the other person's positions, you feel like you're getting somewhere.

"Any time you can lock up one of your top players for a lengthy period of time, it's a good day."

Video: Peter Chiarelli on Leon Draisailt's eight-year deal

Selected by the Oilers with the No. 3 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, Draisaitl has 137 points (50 goals, 87 assists) in 191 NHL games.

Draisaitl hopes to continue improving on his point total this season.

"The expectation is they always go up, that's just the way it is, whether it's as a player or as a team, as a group," he said. "But for me, it's about proving myself again and trying to be a better player than I was last year."

After the Oilers were eliminated from the playoffs in May, Chairelli made signing McDavid and Draisaitl his top priority.

"Basically it started right at the end of the season," Chiarelli said. "We had our exit meetings and … I talked with Leon. 'You're a priority and Connor is a priority, and we want to make you one of the pillars of this organization.'

"Then we embarked on a negotiation. With every negotiation, there's ebbs, there's flows, there's points during the summer where there's a critical point. But at the end of the day, Leon wanted to stay and we wanted him to stay, and he wanted long term as did we, so it was a good fit and it's a good one-two punch and we're happy to have him committed for such a long term."

Video: ANA@EDM, Gm6: Draisaitl nets PPG to tally hat trick

The Oilers made few changes to their roster this offseason after finishing second in the Pacific Division with 103 points in 2016-17.

Draisaitl is ready for the added attention he is expected to receive throughout the League this season.

"I think the attention is already there, I think I had it through most parts of last season too, and I think I handled it pretty well," he said. "The expectations they always go up, that's just the way it is, whether it's as a player or as a team, as a group. But for me, it's about proving myself again and trying to be a better player than I was last year."

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