Edmonton, AB - Words can barely describe Darcy Hordichuk's desire to remain in Oilers silks.
The 31-year-old's one-year, $825,000 deal expires on Jun. 30, setting up another round at the NHL's once-a-year signing spree on Canada Day. But he has little interesting in testing the open market once again.
He wants to be an Oiler.
"I think I'm probably in the same position as the new coach that's coming in -- that's the unknown as to who it's going to be, and where you're going to end up," Hordichuk laughed as we caught up with him at the Oilers' annual Locker Room Sale at Rexall Place Sunday.
"I love this city and love playing for the organization. With these young kids and the future this team has, you can't help but want to be a part of it. I'm hoping I get a chance to re-sign here, but at the end of the day, you've got to see what happens. July 1st is coming around pretty quick, so I'm hoping to have some idea by then."
Hordichuk played 43 games last season, posting a goal and three points, along with 64 penalty minutes -- among those, a couple highlights bouts with Minnesota's Brad Staubitz and Matt Kassian.
Perhaps most importantly, Hordichuk did his best to prove his role as a heavyweight still has value in the NHL. He ended the season with a highly respectable -3 rating.
"I think it's something [teammates] always think about, is having that deterrent on the team," Hordichuk said. "I'm not a guy that they're looking to develop, so if I have to sit out sometimes, I understand my role.
"When we play teams that are tough to play against, then I get to play. But it's a big off-season for me. I'm trying to work a little bit more on my skill-set and my hands -- stuff that, throughout the year, our trainers have noticed [as areas of improvement]. There's such a great opportunity here."
The Oilers have gone through several heavyweights over the past couple seasons, with Zack Stortini and Steve MacIntyre being the most recent names to come and go. But Hordichuk brings a much more complete package; one that he hopes will earn him another look on the team (and in the city) he loves so much.
"You look at the playoffs and see some of the series' early on with Philly and Pittsburgh, everybody thinks fighting is going away," he said. "But the only thing that's going away is that guys aren't 6'5", 270 anymore. They're all guys that can play and still contribute once in a while. I'm hoping that's me."
The Oilers are Hordichuk's sixth team in his 11-year NHL career. Stops in Atlanta, Phoenix, Florida, Nashville and Vancouver simply can't compare to what's being assembled in Edmonton.
"There are so many things that you see -- from the fan support to the direction of the young kids and how much better they're getting," he said. "It's all the growing pains that Chicago and Pittsburgh went through."
Ryan Smyth and Lennart Petrell will also become unrestricted free agents on Jul. 1, and the Oilers also have to ink (or deal) RFA Sam Gagner. And with the possibility of bringing in another high-end talent in Nail Yakupov, space is limited.
For now, Hordichuk isn't letting it bother him. He's doing his best to get the rest he needs, work out harder than ever and prepare as well as he possibly can.
Following a vacation to Florida (where he still owns a house) and visiting Disneyworld and other destinations with his two kids, Edmonton will be the veteran's primary home for the duration of the summer.
"I'll be here training with Body by Bennett (Oilers Strength and Conditioning Consultant Simon Bennett). It's been a good [off-season] so far. There are a couple guys that I played against throughout the year that I'm training with, so we've got a good group of guys to push each other so that we all come back strong and help this organization."
As a consummate pro and team player, that's all Hordichuk wants to do.