Oilers sign forward Corey Perry for remainder of season

Perry hasn't been on a team since the Chicago Blackhawks placed him on unconditional waivers on Nov. 28.

Oilers sign forward Corey Perry for remainder of season

EDMONTON — After Corey Perry was released by the Chicago Blackhawks in November, there were a number of NHL teams who were interested in the veteran forward.

A chance to play with Connor McDavid and the surging Edmonton Oilers proved too good for Perry to pass up.

The Oilers announced Monday that Perry signed a one-year, US$775,000 deal with the team, He could make more in performance bonuses.

“There were some other suitors out there that were great options, and I want to thank them,” Perry said after practising for the first time with the Oilers at Rogers Place.

“But it all kept coming back here. When you have a six-year-old kid and you have Connor McDavid on the team, you kind of follow the Edmonton Oilers.

“All jokes aside, this team is going in the right direction. Not just because they’ve won 13 games in a row, but you can see where they’re going and their mindset and the vision that they have. They want to win a Stanley Cup.”

Perry's career was headed in the wrong direction after the gritty forward had his contract terminated by the Blackhawks on Nov. 29 after clearing waivers.

The Blackhawks said an internal investigation revealed that Perry "engaged in conduct that is unacceptable" and violated both Perry's contract and the Blackhawks' team policies ensuring a professional and safe work environment.

Perry didn't comment Monday if he would challenge the Blackhawks’ termination of his deal, or provide any more details on what caused the Blackhawks to terminate his contract.

Since his release, he’s been consulting with mental-health counsellors and was on the ice five times a week, preparing to return to the NHL. He said the move to play again has the full support of his mental-health caregivers.

“If you need the help, go find it and treat yourself,” said Perry. “When I get up in the morning every day now, I can look myself in the mirror and be happy about myself and where I’m going. I’m proud of what I’ve done over the last two months.”

The tentative plan is for Perry to make his Oilers debut Saturday when Edmonton hosts Nashville. He will likely not play Tuesday against Columbus and Thursday against the Blackhawks, the team that waived him.

“I think it’s important that he practises with us for a while,” said Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch. “The timeline is not definite, but I think the best (situation) is if he practises for a week and possibly play in the Saturday game.”

Oilers general manager Ken Holland said he’s wanted to see Perry in an Oilers jersey since the player left the Anaheim Ducks in 2019. He said he consulted with Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson before signing Perry.

“My first year as a manager of the Oilers, I went after Corey Perry,” said Holland. “Unfortunately, he made the decision to go to Dallas. I’ve been hot after Corey over the past few years. He’s the type of player that every team wants. He’s got an incredible winning pedigree.”

Since that 2019 decision to not sign with the Oilers, Perry appeared in three consecutive Stanley Cup finals from 2020-22 with three different teams — the Dallas Stars, Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning. He was part of the losing side in all three of those finals.

Perry has 892 points in 1,273 career regular-season games. He won a Stanley Cup in 2007 as a member of the Anaheim Ducks. Perry was named the league’s most valuable player for the 2010-11, when he scored 50 goals for Anaheim.

Oilers captain McDavid said it’s just another piece for a team that’s in the midst of a 13-game winning streak. 

"I don’t think there’s any messages that need to be sent from the front office," he said. "I think, collectively, as an organization, we know where we’re at in terms of wanting to win. We’re definitely past that phase of management sending messages and vice versa. Obviously, Perry’s been brought in to be a part of our group and help us achieve what we want to achieve."

The Oilers are a Cup contender again after a dreadful 3-9-1 start under former head coach Jay Woodcroft. They have gone 23-6-0 since Knoblauch took over, and are looking to Perry to provide playoff experience and grit.

Perry will join Evander Kane as Oilers who were signed after having their contracts torn up by other teams. Kane joined the Oilers in 2022 after his contract was voided by the San Jose Sharks. 

Kane was a force for the Oilers that season, scoring 22 goals in 43 games. He has 27 points in 41 games for the Oilers so far this season. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2024.

Steven Sandor, The Canadian Press