Edmonton Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins has a connection with defenceman Keith Aulie, which might have factored into the club signing the free agent to a one-year contract on Tuesday.
“It probably happened a little quicker than I thought it might,” Aulie said. “I knew a little while ago that the Oilers were interested in me. I had a couple of conversations with Dallas Eakins. It became clear that they were interested and they were able to make an offer for me and I’m just looking for some opportunity.”
Aulie played for the Toronto Marlies under Eakins’ watch as head coach during the 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons.
“I know he’s always been good to me,” Aulie said. “I learned a lot from him during my time there and I’m looking forward to playing for him in Edmonton.”
For Aulie, coming to the Oilers was about opportunity. He has spent the last three seasons with the Norfolk Admirals and Syracuse Crunch in the AHL and the Tampa Bay Lightning, playing 45 NHL games in 2012-13 but only 15 this past season.
“I’ve had some opportunity in the last couple of years but just this last year it was a little bit tough. I ran into a couple of injuries last year and tried to work through that but to get an opportunity in Edmonton will be great. I’m just focusing on coming in and doing what I can do.”
Aulie, 25, brings a bigger presence to the Oilers blue line. The defenceman is 6-foot-6 and 228 pounds. He has played 136 NHL games, scoring 13 points (4-9-13).
“I play from my own end out. I’m a defensive defenceman. I just try to make it hard on their players and play tough. I just try to make that first pass and get shots through to the net. I’m just a pretty simple, stay-at-home shutdown defenceman.”
The Regina, SK native is happy to return to Western Canada and join a team he has watched since he was a kid.
“I know a little bit about the Oilers, being from out west here in Canada, growing up and watching them on TV all of the time. It’s going to be exciting. I’m familiar with the coach a little bit and some of the guys on the team and I like the direction the team is going. It will be fun to get up there and get going.”