NASHVILLE -- Center Ryan Johansen signed an eight-year, $64 million contract with the Nashville Predators on Friday. It runs through the 2024-25 season and has an average annual value of $8 million.
"This is probably one of the best days of my life right now," said Johansen, who turns 25 on Monday. "I'm just so thankful for my family and my brother and friends. They've done everything they can to guide me in the right direction and teach me and learn from."
The Predators acquired Johansen in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets for defenseman Seth Jones on Jan. 6, 2016. In Johansen's first full season with Nashville, he tied for the Predators lead with 61 points (14 goals, 47 assists) and had 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 14 games during the Stanley Cup Playoffs before he sustained an acute compartment syndrome in his left thigh during the Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks.
[RELATED: Nashville Predators' Team Reset | Arvidsson signs seven-year contract with Predators]
He had emergency surgery and did not play in a six-game loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final but is expected to be ready for training camp.
"That's why I was brought here, to be a No. 1 center," said Johansen, who became a restricted free agent July 1. "That was my motivation going into the playoffs and throughout the series and putting ourselves in a position to play in the playoffs. And that's exactly what you want. You want a three-time Stanley Cup champion in Jonathan Toews (of the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference First Round) looking you in the eyes, and you've got to find a way to beat him. And then moving on to [the] St. Louis [Blues] and then Anaheim and then unfortunately with the injury, but it could have been me and [Pittsburgh's] Sidney Crosby going head-to-head, or [Evgeni Malkin].
"I guess we'll never know that answer. I just embrace the challenge and the opportunity for me, and I feel like moving forward now I gained a ton of confidence from the experience of these playoffs and believing in my abilities that I can help our team in a big way."
Video: NSH@ANA, Gm2: Johansen strikes on early breakaway
By signing Johansen, the Predators have secured their top line for at least the next five seasons. They signed wingFilip Forsberg to a six-year, $36 million contract June 27, 2016, and wing Viktor Arvidsson to a seven-year, $29.75 million contract July 22.
Johansen, who has 288 points (101 goals, 187 assists) in 433 NHL games, and 27 points (nine goals, 18 assists) in 34 playoff games, is the oldest player on the line; Forsberg turns 23 on Aug. 13, and Arvidsson is 24.
"I think it's fantastic," Nashville general manager David Poile said. "This was kind of the goal in planning for the offseason. We've got our whole core signed up, a lot of guys for a lot of years. Hopefully, we've chosen correctly. I believe we've chosen correctly. The thing that not only impressed me with the winning last year was also the closeness of the team. Our coaching staff has done a remarkable job. I think [Johansen] would echo that they feel confident in the coaches and the direction that they're giving, and I think our room is a very close room, so I thought it was in my best interest and our team's best interest if I could get the bulk of our team locked up for a long time so that they could play together for a long time.
"Here we go. We've got possibly one of the best, if not the best, lines in the League if coach [Peter] Laviolette decides to play [Johansen] with Arvidsson and Forsberg. But we've got another guy entering into this with Scott Hartnell this year, a former Predator now back, and he's told the coach that he had great chemistry with [Johansen]. So we might have to double-shift him."
Video: STL@NSH, Gm6: Johansen nets backhand on the rush
Hartnell, who played with Johansen in Columbus, signed a one-year, $1 million contract with Nashville on July 1. He played his first six seasons for the Predators, who selected him No. 6 in the 2000 NHL Draft.
Johansen said he made it clear during negotiations that he wanted to commit to the Predators and sign a long-term contract. He said he believes they have a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup on a yearly basis.
"It was very clear to both sides working on this deal that this was the best place to be," Johansen said. "This is where I belong. This is where I want to play. There's no better staff, management, team, group of guys, friends, place to live, city, fans, there's a whole list. There's no better place to be right now."
The Predators felt comfortable committing to Johansen because they have been searching for a No. 1 center of his caliber since entering the NHL in 1998.
"This is the longest contract that we've ever given out since I've been here," Poile said. "Eight years, the money is significant, but we feel we've got the right man to be our No. 1 center for a lot of years."