Edmonton, AB - As far as weekends go, Jeff Petry's couldn't get much better.
The blueliner signed a $1.7 million extension Thursday, keeping him in orange and blue silks through the 2013-14 season -- after which, he will need to be re-upped as a restricted free agent.
24 hours later, he's set to say 'I do' once more, but in a (much) longer-term deal with his fiancée, Julie. Following an early morning breakfast with his groomsmen and some mid-afternoon downtime, Petry had a moment to reach out to us and discuss his deal and what lies ahead.
"It's great to get everything worked out and the timing couldn't be better," he said. "I'm really excited to stay in Edmonton and to work with Ralph (Krueger) as a head coach. I worked with him a lot last year as a D coach, but now getting the chance to work with him as a head coach is going to be great.
"He's very approachable. You can bring any topic up to him and he'll give you his honest feedback. He has all the knowledge in the world and is always willing to help out."
The 24-year-old appeared in 73 games last season, posting two goals, 25 points and a -7 rating. Petry also led the Oilers in average ice-time with 21:45 per game.
But it didn't all come as easy, even though the laid back 24-year-old often made it seem as though it did.
Petry earned a spot on the Oilers' blueline at training camp and appeared in three regular-season games off the hop. But on Oct. 19, he was assigned to the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons, halting a strong start and putting damper in some high, early season expectations.
The 6'3", 196-pound rearguard's minor-league demotion was brief, as he played in two games with the Barons before getting the call back up to Edmonton. He made his return on Oct. 30 vs. St. Louis on a night in which he tallied an assist and 22:54 TOI in a 4-2 win.
"Coming to camp, I knew (Ryan) Whitney was still out so I still had to keep proving myself," he said. "When I got called back up, it was from that moment on that I was really focused on not going back and doing whatever I could to stay up."
"I was trying to do a little bit too much at the start.
"The physical side is something that I needed to work on," Petry added. This past summer I did and it helped me a lot. I had more confidence in taking the body and I wasn't worried about being pushed around out there. Confidence is such a huge thing, but also playing with Laddy (Ladislav Smid) was great. We communicated well together and we clicked right off the bat. We worked well with each other all season and there was an open line of communication with us."
As it turned out, the entirety of Petry's 2011-12 season was a learning process. From beginning to end and beyond the scope of the Oilers' development plan, he kept his eyes open and his ears tuned to help pick up on the game's subtle nuances.
"It was great," he said of his experience at the 2012 World Hockey Championship in Helsinki. "You're playing with and against these guys all year, so even the experience with playing against other guys that you're battling with six times a season with other teams is great -- coming together and representing your country is great, too. The whole thing about learning how things are done with other organizations around the league -- you can never learn too much about the game. That experience really helped."
That, in addition to the on-ice component and other acquisitions also inked to sweetheart deals (such as Justin Schultz) can only help as the Oilers' green backend grows into something more pronounced.
It's a necessity if the club hopes to begin a climb back to the post-season.
"Everybody is getting another year under their belt and gaining that experience," Petry said. "I think we'll be strong back there. All things considered, it looks to me like we're heading in the right direction."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick