The Carolina Hurricanes have locked up their franchise player, signing centre Eric Staal to a multi-year contract extension on Thursday.
The $57.75 million deal begins with the 2009-10 NHL season and extends through the 2015-16 season, paying Staal an average of $8.25 million per season.
''This is a great day for hockey in the Carolinas, to know that our franchise player will be with us for at least another eight seasons,'' said Hurricanes' general manager Jim Rutherford. ''Eric has been a special player for us right from the start. We know that he is just coming into his prime right now, and will continue to grow as a player.''
Staal, 23, is entering his fifth season with the Hurricanes and was in the final year of a three-year contract he signed in 2006 that would have paid him $5 million. He was slated to become eligible for restricted free agency after the season.
''I wasn't stressing and wanting to make sure it was done before camp,'' Staal said. ''But it is a nice feeling now to have it out of the way and not get the questions the whole season about an extension and focus on the hockey.''
Staal, who had 100 points three seasons ago in leading the Hurricanes to their first Stanley Cup, tallied 38 goals and 44 assists in 2007-08.