EDMONTON -- A few months ago, Andrej Sekera may not have considered the Edmonton Oilers as a possible free-agent destination. But the bounce of a lottery ball, a change in management and a new coach suddenly made Edmonton appealing to the veteran defenseman.
Sekera, 29, signed a six-year, $33 million contract with the Oilers on the first day of NHL free agency Wednesday.
"I looked at the roster and I saw the team they had, the coach and the management," Sekera said. "When I saw what kind of players they had there, it made my choice very easy. They have a lot of skill, a lot of speed and a lot of smart players. They have a good coach, a good GM and a good goalie. It was a good place for me to play with my style of hockey, so that's why I chose Edmonton."
Since winning the NHL Draft Lottery in April, the Oilers made numerous changes to their management and staff.
Edmonton brought Peter Chiarelli in to be its general manager and president of hockey operations, replacing Craig MacTavish. Chiarelli hired Todd McLellan as coach, and at the 2015 NHL Draft, the Oilers selected Connor McDavid with the No. 1 pick.
As part of their transformation on the ice, Sekera, 29, was brought in to be the Oilers' top defenseman.
"It's definitely a big responsibility for me. I will do my best as I always do," Sekera said. "I'll go out there, work hard and try to help every single guy as much as I can, try to make their life easier on the ice as much as they'll try to make my life easier on the ice. I just want to be a true pro, a true leader on the ice. I might not say a lot, but I want go out there and be a leader through my play."
A third-round selection (No. 71) of the Buffalo Sabres in 2004, Sekera spent the 2014-15 season with the Carolina Hurricanes and Los Angeles Kings.
The native of Bojnice, Slovakia, had three goals and 23 points in 73 games. The Kings acquired Sekera on Feb. 25 in a trade for a conditional first-round draft pick and defenseman prospect Roland McKeown. They hoped he would be instrumental in a push for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which fell short.
"[The Kings] used me a little bit differently than I was used the year before in Carolina," Sekera said. "But my job is to play the game whatever way the coach asks me to. I went into a little bit of a different situation [in Los Angeles]; they had a few different type of players on the team and I had to play a role that was a little bit different for me. That was the coach's decision. I was there to play and it was my job to play the role they asked me to the best I can."
With the Oilers, Sekera is expected to go back to taking on a more offensive role with added responsibilities on the power play and penalty kill. His most productive season came in 2013-14 with the Hurricanes, when he scored 11 goals and 44 points in 74 games.
"Everybody wants to put up points; for me personally, it would be nice to put up points," Sekera said. "But team-wise, I don't think it matters who puts up the points if we win the game. I will just try to do my best to help the team win the game. Whether that's putting up points or blocking shots or whatever. I have a little bit of a different perspective when it comes to things like that."
Sekera will be counted on to bring stability to a team in transition. The Oilers have a number of young, talented players who are looking to lead them into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2006.
"I will try to help them as much as I can, but some of those guys have been in the League for a few years and they know what to expect, they know how the League is, and they know what they're capable of," Sekera said. "We have a new coach and I'm sure he'll be asking us to play his system and I've only heard good things about it. If we all buy in, I think we have a pretty good chance to make the playoffs."