Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien signed a five-year, $38 million contract Monday. It has an average annual value of $7.6 million.
He could have been an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
"We're very excited that Dustin and us were able to come to an agreement … with respect to the term and the money," Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff told the Jets website.
The Jets entered the week nine points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the final wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference but Byfuglien said he's confident in the direction the Jets are headed.
"We've got a good group of guys here," Byfuglien said. "I've been with them for a while now, watching the process of everyone coming up and who's coming in the organization now and what we have coming. I believe in what they're trying to do here. You can't win a Stanley Cup overnight. It's a process and I feel they're in the right state."
Byfuglien, 30, is tied for second among NHL defensemen with 15 goals, and has 32 points in 52 games this season.
At 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, Byfuglien is among the most unique players in the League, having experience at forward and defense. He's scored at least 15 goals in three straight seasons, and played in his third NHL All-Star Game this season.
In 11 seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, Atlanta Thrashers and Jets, he has 148 goals and 376 points in 649 games. He helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2010.
Byfuglien is from Roseau, Minn., about 115 miles south of Winnipeg, and still has family in the area. That made Winnipeg even more desirable for him.
"That has a play in it too," he said. "Close as I'll get to being home and I'm happy to call Winnipeg home now."
Byfuglien will be 35 when his new contract expires but said he believes his best hockey is still to come.
"As the years have gone by I feel every year I've gotten better and better, matured more, figured out how to be a pro better," he said.
Cheveldayoff said Byfuglien's intelligence and maturity on and off the ice will allow him to remain a big contributor.
"He's a smart hockey player that has unique abilities on the ice," Cheveldayoff said. "But I think it's that maturation of a person that has allowed him to understand how he can take his play to another level."