Shawn Horcoff has worn only one NHL sweater his entire career. So when it came to thinking about his future, it was a no-brainer.
The Edmonton Oilers secured their top offensive threat Wednesday, signing Horcoff to a US$33-million, six-year contract extension. "I've been with the same organization ever since I've been drafted, it's been eight years now and to sign another long extension like this it feels like exactly the thing we want and the right thing to do," he said from California, where he is rehabbing from a shoulder injury.
Horcoff had 21 goals and 29 assists in 53 games last season before undergoing season-ending surgery on his left shoulder. The 29-year-old is set to make $3.6 million this coming season.
The deal allows the Oilers, who have had trouble luring free agents to Edmonton this off-season, to keep Horcoff in an Edmonton uniform for the long run.
The Oilers made a run at free-agent sniper Marian Hossa before he signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings. Edmonton was believed to have offered him a long-term contract worth more than $80 million.
Horcoff, who talked to Hossa about playing for the Oilers, said it was the aggressive approach spear-headed by new team owner Daryl Katz that showed him the team was serious about winning.
"You can't build a winning team unless you have an owner that's willing to go the extra mile and get the players there that a team needs to get to that next level," he said. "I got a lot of trust in that guy as a person and an owner that's going to be able to do that."
The team has been able to acquire forwards Erik Cole and Gilbert Brule and defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky through trades this off-season.
Oilers vice president of hockey operations Kevin Prendergast said the Oilers plan to build their team around a core group of players which includes Ethan Moreau, Steve Staios and Horcoff.
"These are the guys you're going to win with, these are the guys that are going to teach the young guys how to win and how hard it is to get there," Prendergast said in a conference call.
"By being proactive with this deal, we avoid being in a situation where Shawn could become an unrestricted free agent after next season and the unknown free agency can bring to the organization," Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe said Wednesday in a statement.
Horcoff was an integral part of the Oilers' run to the Stanley Cup final in 2006, recording a career-high 73 points (22-51) in 79 regular-season games and adding 19 points (7-12) in 24 post-season games. By keeping the same core group of players from that team, he thinks the Oilers have a good shot at making another run at a championship.
"We all truly believe we're going to be back there and when we do I think we all realize how far experience goes," Horcoff said, adding that he thinks the Oilers are part of a group of 12 to 14 teams that can win the Cup in five to six years. "There's a lot to be said with a core group of people staying together and playing together and going through ups and downs."
The Trail, B.C., native says he expects to be ready to play when training camp begins.
Edmonton's fourth-round pick (99th overall) in the 1998 entry draft, Horcoff has 103 goals and 182 assists in 480 career games with the Oilers.