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Keller, Coyotes lock-in and go long-term

The dynamic forward is signed through the 2027-28 season

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes have been outfitted with a premier offensive asset since Clayton Keller broke into the NHL on a full-time basis two years ago. His presence bears scoring, and added to that now is security.

Eight years of security. Nine if you include his current entry-level contract, of which he'll continue to play under during the coming 2019-20 campaign.

Keller, graced with scoring touch, a sharp eye to navigate passing lanes, and a quick stride to sustain the speed that makes him dangerous with and without the puck, agreed to contract extension on Wednesday morning that runs through the 2027-28 season.

"It was a priority of mine to be here for a long time," he said shortly after the extension was announced. "I'm really excited, we have a great group of guys here and I love playing here, so it's awesome to get that done. Knowing that I'm going to be here for eight more years, it's an unbelievable feeling, and I can't wait to get going this year."

Video: Clayton Keller: Eight-Year Contract Extension

The 21-year-old forward is a key foundational piece to the sustainable structure being manufactured by President of Hockey Operations and General Manager John Chayka.

That structure includes groundwork assembled with sound goaltending and stable defense -- two resources backed up by numbers; the Coyotes allowed their opponents a light 2.68 goals per game last season, the fifth-best average in the NHL.

Make no doubt about it; the 21-year-old forward has been one of, if not the Coyotes top scoring threats since joining the club for his first full NHL season in 2017-18.

That, too, is backed up by numbers.

Keller has led the Coyotes in points in each of his first two seasons, coming off of a campaign in which he out up 47 in the form of 14 goals and 33 assists. During his rookie year, the seventh-overall first-round selection of the 2016 NHL Draft registered 65 points, scoring 23 goals and distributing 42 assists.

He became one of just 10 players in Coyotes history to reach the 60-point mark during that stellar rookie campaign.

"It's a really exciting day," Chayka said after the announcement. "Obviously Clayton's a huge part of our team. He's a great young player, we drafted him high, and now to be able to secure him for the next nine seasons is a special feeling. Our ownership made a big commitment, Alex Meruelo wants to build a sustainable winner for a long time here and Clayton's a big part of that, so to get him signed here is a big step for us."

Video: Chayka: Keller Eight-Year Contract Extension

As noted by the Coyotes' Public Relations Department, Keller scored the most goals (28) and accumulated the most points (79) through a player's first 100 games in Coyotes history.

To identify him as a fit on the ice is an easy observation to make. To realize his invaluable worth off the ice, well, those are attributes held in just as high of a regard.

"You need a player and a person that really fits into what you're about as an organization," Chayka added. "Clayton, he's a very talented player, offensively very gifted, but off the ice he's a leader. He really loves the game and really has a passion for it, works at his game, he's a great teammate, and he gets along well with his coaching staff. He's a hard worker and he fits the culture that we want to be about; he's very active in the community, and all of those things led to this decision."

What the Coyotes have done during Keller's two NHL seasons embodies growth, and as he, a vital part of the club's youthful core, grows himself, there is a ripple effect throughout the group.

"We have a good young core of players here and we're all looking to take that next step," Keller added. "We're going in the right direction; we all want to make the playoffs this year and have a lot of fun at the same time. You've got to have some fun, that's when you're playing your best hockey."

More often than not, commitment, especially when it involves an eight-year contract at the NHL level, is rooted from confidence - something Keller is feeling, and embracing.

"It means a lot with John [Chayka] believing in me and Alex Meruelo, our new owner, it's an awesome feeling. I can't wait to get on the ice and show them that they made the right decision."

And it's just the start to a team-player relationship that looks to have all the makings of having a very long, prosperous run.

"Clayton's long-term commitment to our team, our city and our Coyotes family is a pivotal step forward for our franchise," said President & CEO Ahron Cohen. "We are thankful to Clayton for buying into our mission of creating longstanding success here in Arizona. John and Coach Tocchet deserve tremendous credit for creating a culture and identity to this team which makes high-end players such as Clayton want to be here for a long time. This is a great day for our organization and for everyone who is a part of our Coyotes family."

It's the future, and it's looking good.

"It's a special group to be a part of," Keller said with a smile. "We have great days ahead."

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