| |Ryan Jones scored 18 goals & 25 points in 2010-11 (Getty Images).
"I'm thrilled," remarked the Oilers' most recent signee.
Following a career season in which the Chatham, ON native recorded 18 goals and 25 points, Ryan Jones
returns to Edmonton on a two-year deal.
"When you can get a deal done this early, it shows that both sides were working toward the same goal," Jones said. "I really want to be here, and the owner, managers and coaches want me here as well."
With the 26-year-old set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, Jones explains that there was no panic in the negotiation course. It was a process that began soon after the season ended in April.
"It started at the end of the year when management wanted to get some commitment, and see that I wanted to be back for sure. They expressed that right from the end of the season and it went from there.
"It's a negotiation process," he added. "You go back and forth a few times and you want to meet in common ground. I think we did that, and both parties are pretty excited. I know I am."
While Jones and Oilers management are both pleased with the deal, the happiest bunch will likely be the vocal supporters in Oil Country. Jones' entertaining, hard-nosed style and timely goal-scoring touch quickly established his name as a fan-favourite in Edmonton. Because of that and the team's bright future, Jones says the decision to stay was an easy one.
"The community bleeds copper and blue. It's a great place to play and the fan support is simply amazing," he said. "The history of the team is unreal, too. You look at the young guys we have in the organization now and the steps that they took last year. It's an exciting time for the organization and the second part of the so-called 'rebuild.' This is where we start winning games."
He's clearly found his NHL home now, but a prior stop in Nashville put a scare into his young career. Jones played two seasons with the Predators organization before arriving in Edmonton, skating in 87 NHL games and 40 with Nashville's farm club in Milwaukee. After being placed on waivers last spring, Edmonton stepped up to provide the opportunity that Jones was looking for.
"It's one of those situations where change can sometimes make a big difference," Jones explained. "In Nashville, it was obvious that I wasn't going to be part of their plan for the future, and for whatever reason, I found myself on the waiver-wire.
"Edmonton picked me up and gave me a great opportunity. I think that's the main reason that I saw my game develop. When you get new opportunities and get the chance to succeed in various roles, players can really thrive and develop into something more."
That philosophy worked well. He completed the 2009-10 season in Edmonton, scoring once in eight games. It was a small taste, but his brief audition set the stage for a successful 2010-11 campaign.
"I work as hard I possibly can all the time. When you do that, you find yourself in good situations. My game doesn't change too much. I just go out, work hard and get rewarded because I go to the net hard."
That's the style Jones hopes to carry in to the new season. For a player that said countless times last season that his game doesn't change depending on the role or line he's on, the 6'1", 205-pound winger expects to see a similar role with higher stakes regarding team success.
"I think it will be much of the same as this year," Jones said. "I'll be a guy that can go up and down the lineup and whenever I'm called on, I need to be ready and fill in for that role. As a group, this is a big year for us."
Jones went on to comment on the team's post-season expectations following several consecutive years of missed spring action in Oil Country.
"There's a great, great team in that locker room. We went through some battles, some ups and downs last year. That's going to make us stronger as a group," he said. "You never know what the team can do. We've got the personnel and we've got the coaching. The sky's the limit and I think the playoffs are a realistic goal.
"When you make the post-season, you absolutely never know what can happen. Whether you get in as an eighth seed or win the conference, anything is possible once you're there."
Before the 82-game battle commences, there's still a busy summer of training that Jones is already well immersed in.
"It's been going good," he said. "I've worked out in Minnesota, where I live in the summer. I work out with two other guys: Tim Jackman and Jason Blake. It's the same process as last summer. You lose a lot of your strength throughout the year because of how long the season is, and how much pressure you put on your body.
"I took a little break and am back at it now. It's been about a month and it's going well. I'll probably be back on the ice in a couple weeks."
As Jones explains, the off-season break (and refreshing workouts) can be useful, but nothing compares to mid-season competition.
"I'm using these months to recharge and come back even stronger, but I can't wait to get back and start playing again. We all miss that." Author: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com