While General Manager Steve Tambellini suggested his club might not be very active during an early-evening press conference Thursday night, Friday morning became a busy time for Oilers management when the NHL’s free agency period opened up. Before the clock struck 11am, Edmonton had signed tough-as-nails winger Ben Eager
to a three-year, $3.3 million contract.
|Ben Eager scored 7 goals & 17 points in 68 games last season with Atlanta & San Jose(Photo by Getty Images) |
Following that, another announcement was made when the Oilers inked free-agent winger Darcy Hordichuk
to a one-year, $825,000 deal. In an instant, the Oilers’ team toughness makeup had been altered in a big way.
"It happened pretty quick," Eager said shortly after signing his deal. "I got a call early into free agency from my agent and he told me that the Oilers were really interested. It made my decision pretty easy. I'm going to a team that's excited to have me.
"Edmonton’s got a bright future and I’m really excited to become a part of that."
Hordichuk, who played last season in Florida, is equally as excited to come to Edmonton.
"I told my agent early on that I'd be a good fit in Edmonton with the young nucleus of kids that they have there. I thought it would be a good opportunity to be in that organization and see the direction that they're going in.
"A lot of people want to come to this organization, including me. I’m happy that I’m going to get the opportunity to be a part of it all."
After winning the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010, Eager split this past season with Atlanta and San Jose, eventually being part of another lengthy post-season run with the Sharks. Looking for commitment and long-term security, the situation worked out well.
"I’ve been mostly on one-year deals lately, so I was looking to join a team, get that security and be part of things for the future," Eager explained. "I don't know if there's a better team to look at with as much upside as the Oilers right now. It's a great team that's on the rise.
"It will be an exciting atmosphere coming to the rink every day. We're going to be a tough team to play against."
Hordichuk is only signed to a one-year deal, but believes the opportunity to showcase his talent in an important time for the franchise will help him establish a consistent role in the City of Champions.
"It will be same role that I've always had," he said. "That's being a physical, in-your-face guy that's willing to drop the gloves with anybody; anywhere, anytime. I think that's why I've been in the league and have had success.
"Nothing's going to change. I've just got more stars to protect on this team and it's something that I'm going to enjoy doing. Being back in Canada and playing there is something that I wanted."
While Hordichuk is known as a pure tough-guy, Eager brings a similar dose with a skilled side as well. In 68 games with the Thrashers and Sharks, he recorded seven goals and 17 points. As a responsible two-way winger, he knows that his role will surely go beyond the prototypical, fourth-line mold.
"I play the physical style, but I can also play the game pretty well," Eager said. "I'm looking to improve my game over the next three years and become a more complete player. I think I can play with skilled players and play pretty much everywhere in the lineup. I'm looking to be an energy player that can contribute offensively, but also be a reliable defensive player in all situations."
With a role in mind, Eager was determined to sign with Edmonton for another, perhaps equally as important reason when you consider the North Division landscape.
Eager has faced the Vancouver Canucks three times in the past three years in post-season action; twice as a Chicago Blackhawk, and this past season as a member of the San Jose Sharks. His teams emerged victorious twice, ultimately striking a sense of fear into his opponents. He became a pest, vehemently targeting the Canucks’ skilled players in a physical, rough-and-tumble brand of hockey.
The Oilers and Canucks will clash in six contests next season, something the 6’2", 227-pound forward is most certainly looking forward to.
"It’s going to be awesome," he said. "It's nice going to the rink when you know there's going to be a big battle. Obviously I've had the chance to battle against Vancouver over the past few years with Chicago and San Jose. Now I'm going to Edmonton where I know there's a big rivalry between the two teams and I'm looking forward to that."
Hordichuk is also familiar with Vancouver, but for a much different reason. He played two seasons with the Canucks, amassing seven points and an astonishing 251 penalty minutes in 129 games. Many of those sin-bin seconds were accumulated by dropping the mitts, something that Hordichuk has gained a reputation for as being of the league’s most-feared.
For the 30-year-old enforcer, his message was exactly what Oilers fans across Oil Country wanted to hear.
"It’s going to be fun," he said. "Hopefully Vancouver’s going out and getting a tough guy right now, because I'll definitely be going after some of their key players. Calgary, too. It's payback time."Author: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com