There's no question Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux would have been one heck of an attractive asset come July 1 on the opening day of free agency.
The thing is, Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren and Giroux had no intention of finding out.
On Monday afternoon, the incredibly skilled third-season forward inked a three-year contract extension with the Flyers, who drafted him in the first round (No. 22) of the 2006 Entry Draft.
"I talked with Claude's agent (Larry Kelly) a couple of times late in the summer and we decided to see how things went at the start of the year," Holmgren said during a conference call Monday night. "We met in Philadelphia a few weeks ago and it kind of went from there. It's important to get the guys we consider key parts of the team. He's been a good player for us and he's only going to become a better player over the course of the next few years."
In addition to leading the team with 7 goals this season, Giroux tops the Flyers in points (14), shorthanded goals (3) and game-winners (3), while ranking second in faceoff wins (98).
Giroux's new deal is reportedly worth $11.25 million -- $2.75 million next season, $3.5 millon in 2012-13 and $5 million in 2013-14.
"We started talking at the start of the season," Giroux said. "I had a couple of options to look over and me and my lawyer talked about it and felt this was the best fit for me. We have a lot of good players on this team and I'm just trying to fit in. Hopefully, we can continue with our success."
Giroux was ecstatic to finalize a three-year deal.
"I'm really excited to be with the Flyers organization for three more years," Giroux, who would have been a restricted free agent in July, said. "We are going to a very good team, hopefully for many years. This is a good group of guys and I am having a lot of fun right now."
Prior to this season, Giroux never even scored a shorthanded goal and now he leads the League in that category while posting at least one point in 10 of Philadelphia's 15 games. Heck, he didn't notch his seventh goal last season until Dec. 17.
"He's a good two-way player for us now," Holmgren praised. "He's seeing considerable ice time and he not only plays not on our power play, but shorthanded situations and for a young player coming into the league at the age he did, that says something. He's good defensively and coaches in the NHL won't put up with young players who aren't responsible defensively. The fact Claude is killing penalties right now shows what a good young player he is."
There's no question Giroux is on the fast track to stardom. Flyers coach Peter Laviolette saw this coming during his team's incredible run during the Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring.
In just his second postseason appearance, Giroux finished third on the team with 21 points, including 10 goals, in 23 games. He's undoubtedly picked up where he left off a season ago.
"I would say that he's not among those second-tier players anymore," Laviolette said when asked where Giroux stood in the mix of elite and second-tier players in the League.
"He's somebody we count on to play in every situation and he's proving himself to be a clutch player," he continued. "He's had big games in playoffs and big games when you need a performance out of somebody. He seems to be stepping up."
Holmgren wouldn't elaborate on whether or not Giroux's signing would hasten negotiations with pending restricted free agent forward Jeff Carter or unrestricted free agent Ville Leino.
"It doesn't affect anything," Holmgren said. "We're going to try and move forward. We have players and we're going to try and keep our team together the best we can and we'll continue to do that."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale