| |Eric Belanger has played 10 seasons in the NHL with Los Angeles, Carolina, Atlanta, Minnesota, Washington and Phoenix.
Competition was fierce for face-off and penalty kill specialist Eric Belanger
on Free Agency Day Friday but at the end of the day, Belanger decided that he liked the direction of the team residing in Alberta's capital city.
"Eric and his agent Pat Brisson, when they spoke about the reason why they want to come here they spoke about our young players and what they can see coming in the next little while," said Oilers GM Steve Tambellini. "That was nice to hear."
There were five teams in the running for Belanger's services - ranked 18th in the NHL last season with a 55.5% success rate on the dot. One of the teams even attempted to ink the pivot yesterday, getting permission from the Coyotes.
"Yesterday, one of the teams came up to us and asked the Phoenix Coyotes if they could talk to us so there was some interest already yesterday," said Belanger. "We didn't get a deal done, but today around 12:30 (eastern time) the phone started ringing from my agent's office. There was a bunch of teams interested."
The Oilers had targeted Belanger early and when the dust settled they were one of the final choices for the 33 year old.
"I think it picked up around 3:00. There was about five teams in the running then a couple hours later it was down to three, then two," Belanger remarked.
"My final choice was to go with the Oilers for security and an up-and-coming young team. I'm excited about the opportunity."
And the Oilers are excited to have him.
"He presents intelligence. He does well on face-offs, something that we desperately needed. He has an ability to play with good players. He can move the puck, make a play. He's always been able to do that," said Tambellini.
"(Head coach) Tom (Renney) can use him in a lot of different situations"
Belanger had an opportunity to talk to both Renney and Tambellini today and felt discussions went well.
"I had great conversations with Mr. Tambellini and Tom Renney. They're excited. I think I can bring a lot of experience, some leadership. There's a lot of young, skilled players excited for me as a veteran," he said, noting that his versatility and ability to move up the lineup if needed should also be considered an asset.
"I can take a lot of key face-offs, I can kill penalties, I can play on the power play, play on the second or third line. There's a lot of different things I can do. I'm excited about the opportunity to work with different players. We can be a really good team in the next couple years."
Another aspect of the Belanger signing that should benefit the Oilers is his mentorship.
"Last year, working with the young Kyle Turris, seeing him get better as the season went on with face-offs, it's always fun to do that."
Turris was 50.0% in the dot last season - a sharp improvement from 42.9% in his previous full NHL campaign.
"I'm definitely going to be available for the younger guys. If they want my help, I'm going to be there for them."
But for Belanger, it's not just about developing. With a three-year deal, he wants to win and thinks this team can compete for a playoff spot right way.
"Every year, everybody's goal is to win the Stanley Cup and it's not going to be any different for us here in Edmonton," he said.
"It's a city where there's a lot of pressure on the team. We have some veteran guys and we want to win. We want to make the playoffs. I hope that's the goal of every player in the locker room."