Edmonton, AB - With Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov up front and in need of protection, General Manager Steve Tambellini placed a call to a familiar face, bringing back Darcy Hordichuk on a one-year deal.
Hordichuk, 31, had spent the 2011-12 season in Edmonton and, while he entertained offers from "a couple" teams early on Jul. 1, staying in Oil Country was what he wanted.
"It was fun to be a part of last year," he said over the phone, "but now I feel like we're moving to that next stage where we're trying to make a good push and grow. [The Oilers are] the team I wanted to be with.
"It's a little different with us tough guys, because we want to see who's signing and where because it has that trickle down effect. All of a sudden as soon as one guy signs, other teams start deciding that they need to bulk up."
Last season, Hordichuk was used sparingly, often deployed for under six or seven minutes a game in the 43 he appeared in. Still, he was the Oilers' best option as a nuclear deterrent as he amassed eight fights (in addition to three in the pre-season) and 64 penalty minutes overall.
He's hoping to get a bigger role and more ice time under newly appointed Head Coach Ralph Krueger.
"There are a lot of young guys to protect on this team. That's what I want to do," he said. "With this new transition with Ralphy, I look at it as a new opportunity and I'm excited about it.
"For me, it was simple. I wanted to get a chance with Ralph. I thought with some of the other teams I was looking at (to sign with), Ralph knows me and how I can play. When he did take over [last season], I thought I got a good chance to play for him and had a good opportunity to succeed. I want to build on that and that's why I ended up signing."
Tambellini wouldn't go into detail about it, but did agree that Hordichuk's presence was "needed" considering the Oilers' current situation. As well, he believes the coaching change will certainly present some new opportunities.
"I can't speak for Ralph, but if Darcy is in the lineup, he may see some more minutes than he did last year."
At 6'1" and 212 pounds, Hordichuk will be challenged within the division again next year. Particularly in Minnesota with Matt Kassian and Jul. 1 signee Zenon Kenopka now on board, No. 16 is excited to get back at it against some hated rivals.
But again, it comes down to opportunity.
"It was tough last year," he said. "You can only chirp and do so much from the bench. There comes a point when you've got to have that fear factor, that if they're going to run around, you're going to get the opportunity go out against that line -- and it doesn't matter who it is, because the coach will want to use you in those situations. That's what I was hoping for when I came last year and it didn't quite work out, but I'm really looking forward to the opportunity now.
"When guys are run, maybe I get the opportunity to respond right away," Hordichuk continued. "I want to be out on the ice at a time when the running around is going on, or even stop it before it happens."
Hordichuk is a consummate pro, a leader that will do anything to help the team. Although he was a healthy scratch for much of the season, he never once complained and understood his role as an in-and-out role player.
And in the room, he's one of the most respected personalities and positive voices, helping to grow the club's young stars on the ice, behind the scenes and in the community.
"That's where my positive attitude comes in, when I sat out last year -- and really understanding my role is something the organization has seen in me and respected," he said. "At the end of the day, you want to help your teammates become a better team because you're all in it together. You want to make that push and being negative doesn't help anyone get better.
"I'm trying to bring the organization together (in the room) and lift their spirits throughout the season. It's all in an effort to make that push for the playoffs and let the younger guys experience what I got to experience throughout my career."
He's an ambassador to his teammates, the Oilers and the city of Edmonton -- a solid, no-risk signing with high, behind-the-scenes rewards.