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THE TEAM TODAY: Sutton Signs On

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers


Edmonton, AB - As worried as he was last week in Ottawa, Andy Sutton's qualms were put to rest bright and early Monday morning.

The 36-year-old rearguard was extended, inking a one-year deal worth $1.5 million, with another $250,000 available as a bonus for games played during the 2012-13 season.

"It's always on your mind," Sutton said on Friday in Kanata, looking at all the possible scenarios leading up to Feb. 27's trade deadline. The rugged blueliner's name had been brought numerous times as the rumour mill continued on with an unrelenting surge.

"Everyone wants to know where they're going to be tomorrow, right?"

He'll be here in Edmonton, and the big man couldn't be happier.

"I love the city, I love the guys," Sutton said as he addressed the media on Monday at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park. "The organization is great and headed in the right direction, and I couldn't think of a better place to be."

"I let (General Manager) Steve (Tambellini) know pretty early that I wanted to stay here," he added. "It took a little while and was a bit of a process, but it feels great to get it done. I didn't want to move. I didn't want to go anywhere at the trade deadline. We've got something going and we're all building towards something, and I wanted to be part of it."

Sutton, who's been with four separate organizations (New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, Anaheim Ducks and now the Oilers) in the past three years, is happy that he doesn't have to pack up and move once more. Doing so in Oil Country, where he believes a special thing is happening, only makes it better.

"We're all building towards that," Sutton said of success. "We're trying to learn to play the right way, win the right way and lose the right way. I think we're seeing that. We're seeing more maturity out of our young players. The veterans that we have around have done a great job showing the guys the right way to do things, I hope."

The 6'6, 245-pound defenceman has provided Head Coach Tom Renney with options. It just so happens that Sutton was a healthy scratch in two straight games on the Oilers' recent three-game road swing, but returned to help the club capture a big 4-3 overtime win in the Nation's Capital on Hockey Day in Canada.

If a calming, heavy-hitting rearguard is needed, Sutton's experience and consummate professionalism is always ready to step in and step up as the squad's ultimate team player.

"He's a big, strong man," Renney explained. "He's one of those guys that brings a calm to our dressing room. He's got the experience in the game and, I think as we continue to grow as a team, that type of involvement from a veteran player is important.

"Once guys get here, they want to stay here," he added, noting Sutton's desire to remain an Oiler. "That's the nature of our organization. That's the nature of our growth and our arrow-up look. From a coaching perspective, guys are learning, they're getting opportunity and they'll continue to. We should just get better, so I think it's a good landing pad for a lot of people."


Jordan Eberle, the club's leading scorer with 24 goals and 54 points this season, sits sixth on the Oilers in average ice time per game among forwards: 16:47. Struggling veterans Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Smyth lead the crop with numbers at or exceeding the 20-minute mark.

Renney has paid close attention to coaching zone starts this season, but is looking at giving his young superstars some additional minutes 5-on-5 and on the penalty kill.

"They've shown an ability to do that," he said. "I think you'll see the kids start to kill penalties more. It's the body of work and it's pretty easy to take potshots along the course of the season as to what we're doing and not doing. It's the growth of a team that we're worried about here. Sometimes I might be a little protective of when I deploy those kids and when, where and how."


Ryan Nugent-Hopkins sustained his latest shoulder injury a week ago in Toronto. It was labeled as a 7-10 day issue, but the 18-year-old rookie was absent at today's practice; seven days since he went down at the Air Canada Centre.

"I don't know if he's day-to-day," Renney explained. "I think it's more short-term than anything else. We're going to be careful here. I'm going to be the prudent one with when he comes back in to play."

-- Ryan Dittrick, - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick


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