LET ME SAY THIS ABOUT THAT

I’m not crazy about the length of the contract that’ll take Andrew Ference within a couple of years of having 40 candles on his birthday cake, but there’s not much doubt in my mind Edmonton Oilers GM Craig MacTavish has found himself a player who’ll fit into his dressing room seamlessly.

Ference, 34, a veteran of 760 NHL games who won a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins in 2011, signed for $13 million over four years to play in his hometown with the Oilers on July 5.

While Ference definitely isn’t the big-bang addition the Oilers still need on their blue line, he’s the kind of honest, veteran second-pairing defenseman who’ll bring dimensions coach Dallas Eakins wants and needs. Hard-nosed. Nothing flashy – save for the, ahem, salute he offered fans of the Montreal Canadiens during the first round of the 2011 playoffs.

Just as important when it’s still a bit of a sales pitch to convince UFAs to come to Edmonton, Ference seems genuinely happy to be coming home. So far, Ference has said all the right things, his latest address to the media coming at Servus Place in St. Albert Tuesday.

WHAT HE SAID

Ference talked about what he learned during his time with the Bruins, a tenure that included the Cup win in 2011 and another trip to the finals this spring.

"Everybody talks now about Boston being so battle-tested and having all this playoff experience, but when I went there, there was a bunch of guys with no playoff experience, guys who hadn’t been in the playoffs for a number of years," said Ference, who joined Boston by way of trade in 2007.

"You wouldn’t even see Bruins hats around town, so I realize how easy it is to have the tide turn fairly quickly. "It’s really neat to be part of that, especially in a city like this that cares."

Ference, who has 120 playoff games on his resume, knows full well he be expected to provide leadership to the young core here. That’s something, if he picked up anything from playing with Mario Lemieux in Pittsburgh and Jarome Iginla during his days with the Calgary Flames, he’s capable of.

"I’ve played with a lot of Hall of Fame guys," he said. "At the end of the day, the most impactful players are the guys who have those qualities but are themselves. They’re not trying too hard. It’s not forced. Nobody is coming in with a script. People operate best when they can be themselves and they can be in a positive atmosphere and contribute to a team. That’s probably biggest thing I’ve learned from all those guys.

"Of course, I come in feeling a huge responsibility, just like every guy on the team probably should. That’s the only way to take the next step forward."

It’s time to take that step. Ference will help.

WHILE I’M AT IT

With Ilya Kovalchuk walking away from $77 million and his contract with the New Jersey Devils for a boatload of cash back in the KHL, there’s been a fair amount of buzz about the possibility of other Russian players doing likewise – notably in these parts, Nail Yakupov.

Bob Stauffer of 630 CHED had connected correspondent Dmitry Chesnokov on his Oilers Now show his afternoon and he addressed the relationship, or lack of same, between Kovalchuk’s decision and other Russian players. It’s much the same take Jason Gregor offered earlier this week.

"He’s committed," Chesnokov said of Yakupov’s ties to Edmonton. "I understand the panic and the doubt that can set in. If you ask me, in my honest opinion, Kovalchuk is a one-off.

"It’s not the floodgates opening and all of a sudden and Yakupov is buying a ticket on the way to Siberia or something like that. No. He came to North America to play junior hockey, you know? To learn, to be preparing, to hit the ground running when he’s drafted.

"He played and felt what it’s like to be, you know, with the Oilers, this young organization, sort of on the cusp of being this very, very, very good team. He’s not going anywhere."

AND . . .

. . . I expect a bounce back year from Ryan Jones, who has fallen out of favor with some Oilers fans after a sub-par season in which he struggled to come back from a serious eye injury. Jones didn’t garner a lot of interest during his short time in the free agent market – the contract he got from the Oilers was better than anything else out there. He’s got something to prove.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Can I say Fistric, Brownlee? Being a simpleton, I’m on my third post of this crusade.

    EDIT: Yes. Yes, you can say Fistric. You cannot, however, say FIST-ric or call me names, as you did in the part of your comment I removed. Got it? Good.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    I feel this Ference signing although a slight overpay due mostly to term was necessary. No it does not bring the boost of a definitive 1st pairing D man… But in lieu of that it brings a fair amount of stability throughout all 3 pairings. Smid, Petry, Shultz(Jr), Shultz(Sr), and now Ference are all what i would call quality 2nd pairing D men. I think this is a Team D by committee that could hold enough ground to get in a playoff spot.
    Having said that I do not believe the bottom 6 forwards is a playoff caliber group at this time. And i dont believe the top 6 or D improvements are quite enough to push the team into the playoffs as of yet… Close.. but not quite there.

    • toprightcorner

      Yes I would agree on a slight over pay for Ference but I do not get why we continually read about the 4 years being such a big thing.

      It is not a 35+ contract so if Ference loses the wheels, he could pull the pin and retire, no harm no foul!

      I see the flexability Ference brings as a huge plus for this team, he can play either side and would probably be a fair running mate for Shultz jr. Solid 2nd paring for sure.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    I love an underdog. It makes for great drama. I really hope Jones rebounds. Unfortunately he doesn’t have the tools this team needs. If only Penner had Jones heart and work ethic.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    unfortunately, not only do we have to see Jones back again, but the turtle race that is the Hemsky trade may also result is all of us seeing Hemmer back again next season as well.

  • MacT should have attempted to lure Boychuck out of Boston. He and Ference were a solid tandem in Bean town. Ference is fairly gritty but Boychuck looked after the heavy hitting and incoming forecheckers. It was heads up hockey all the way and all the time.

    With Sutton retired, there is no fear factor on the back end at present.

  • I like Ference too, but we all know that past 37 to 38 he will become a ” has been”, but that is not his fault. This will buy us time to develop our abundance of upcoming defenceman.

    On the “Russian Front”, the NHL has never really experienced competition………the Russians have long ago tired of seeing their talent ply their trade in greener pastures. In my humble opinion, they will try to convince every Russian to come back home, Kovy is not a one off………there will be more to follow.

    As far as your assesment of Yukapov starting a new life and wanting to stay here, we all hope for this. I fear the other Russians we drafted will have a hard time commiting to coming over.

    Robin any news to pass on the Nuge and how he is coming along?