The ink dry on a seven-year, $28 million contract extension with the Nashville Predators, Roman Josi said he's happy his hockey future lies in Music City.
"I'm excited about my new contract," Josi, 23, said during a conference call Tuesday. "I'm having fun playing hockey and I'm more excited for next season."
Based on the magnitude of the contract, Nashville clearly is enthusiastic about its young defenseman too.
"I think last year we saw the growth in Roman almost like no other younger player we've had. Probably the best comparison I could come up with is Shea Weber and Ryan Suter," Predators general manager David Poile said.
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Although Josi still hasn't played a full 82-game season in the NHL, 2012-13 was Josi's breakout campaign for the Predators. Playing in all 48 games after the lockout ended, Josi had five goals and 13 assists earning his opportunity to play alongside Weber on the blue line.
After Nashville failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Josi played for Switzerland at the 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship. There, he really caught fire, leading all defensemen with four goals and nine points, and winning the tournament's Most Valuable Player and Best Defenseman awards while helping Switzerland to the silver medal.
"Re-signing Roman was a top priority as we look to regroup heading into the 2013-14 season," Poile said. "Roman has proven, with his growth and success here in Nashville and on the international stage, that he is one of the best young defensemen in the NHL."
Despite the big contract, Josi said he won't let the attention or newfound wealth go to his head.
"The money is one part of the business, but I think the main reason we play hockey is to be successful and to have fun with it," he said.
Though he may be playing with a love for the game, Josi said he's aware of the huge expectations the contract creates for him, and he’s embracing them.
"I want to take more responsibility," he said. "My goal is to play next to Shea again like I did last year. That was great for me as a young player, and I hope to do the same [in the future]. Of course, you want to develop as a player and have more impact on the games and have a bigger role."
Allowing himself two weeks off, Josi said he's getting an early start toward meeting those goals.
"I started working out again and I'm doing the same thing as last year, working out with Mark Streit from the Islanders and Yannick Weber from Montreal," Josi said. "It worked out pretty well last year, and I'm focusing on putting on some more muscles this year and keeping my nutrition habits."
The lengthy contract counts as an act of faith by both player and team, and Josi is confident he made the right decision.
"Nashville is a great organization and they do everything to win," he said. "We had a bad season [in 2012-13], but I think the year before we had a pretty good season and I think we got pretty close to make it really far. I know Nashville is going to do everything to get back on that track. That's why I signed for a long-term deal."