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FEATURE: Leon locked in long term

"I never thought about going anywhere else," said Draisaitl

by Paul Gazzola / EdmontonOilers.com

Breathe easy, Oil Country.

Leon is locked in long term.

The Edmonton Oilers announced on Wednesday the signing of forward Leon Draisaitl to an eight-year contract worth an average annual value of $8.5 million. 

It may have taken a little bit longer for the Oilers forward to finally put pen to paper over the off-season, but Draisaitl said there was never any doubt as to what his outcome would be or the timeline of it.

"I never thought about going anywhere else," the 21-year-old said via phone from Prague, Czech Republic. "We wanted to get it done but we knew from the beginning there was no rush. We had lots of time and I'm just very happy to have it done."

Draisaitl is coming off a stellar campaign, producing 77 points (29G, 48A) in 82 regular season games. He notched 27 power-play points and five game-winners, three of which were scored in overtime. 

He cemented his rank among the upper echelon of the National Hockey League, finishing eighth in League scoring and propelling the franchise back to contender status, having a major hand in the team's resuscitation.

"Any time you can lock up one of your top players for a lengthy period of time, it's a good day," said Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli, who confirmed that both camps were in constant communication.

"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.

"We were always certain we were going to have him signed."

The Cologne, Germany product excelled even more after the regular season, compiling an extra 16 points (6G, 10A) in 13 post-season appearances and helping his squad move on to Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Video: ANA@EDM, Gm6: Draisaitl completes the hat trick

"We have so many great guys and we're so tight in the dressing room," said Draisaitl, who spent the majority of the season on a line with Oilers Captain Connor McDavid and winger Patrick Maroon.

"We love playing for each other and get along really well - the whole team - and for me, that was just something I really wanted to be part of."

Off the ice, the Deutschland Dangler's stature has only risen. While hockey is not the sport of focus in Germany, Draisaitl said he's noticed an increase in his popularity among his homeland during the off-season, splitting time in Germany and the Czech Republic.

"Hockey isn't really that big back home but I still think that a lot of people are starting to recognize me a little bit more and hopefully I can even make a bigger name for myself."

In Prague, Draisaitl continued working out with his trainer of three years.

"For the most part, I spent my summer in Prague getting ready for the season and it's getting closer and closer," he added, maintaining that this Oilers team intends to continue their incline when the 2017-18 campaign rolls around. 

"We want to take that next step," he said. "We need to make sure we have a good start and come out strong. As a team, we have the right pieces in the right places and it's up to us to bring it every night."

The right pieces are certainly in place as Draisaitl will don Orange & Blue through the 2024-25 season - a time period he intended to be as long as possible.

"I wanted to make sure I get in as many years as possible with those guys," he said.

Because Leon is locked in.

For the long haul.

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