Forward Richard Panik agreed to terms with the Chicago Blackhawks on a two-year contract Thursday.
Panik, 26, could have become a restricted free agent on July 1. No financial terms were disclosed, but TSN reported the contract is worth $5.6 million, an average annual value of $2.8 million.
"The first offer they gave me was surprising, so there wasn't much thinking involved," Panik said. "I was really happy to get the first offer; it was a really good one."
Playing on the first line with center Jonathan Toews for most of this season, Panik set NHL career highs in goals (22), assists (22) and points (44). He was one of three Chicago players to play in all 82 regular-season games.
"I was playing on the top line with top players and [coach Joel Quenneville] trusted me and everything clicked and everything worked for me," Panik said. "I just wanted to play my best and I really like playing in Chicago."
Panik, selected in the second round (No. 52) by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2009 NHL Draft, has 91 points (47 goals, 44 assists) in 263 games with the Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs and Blackhawks. Chicago acquired him from Toronto in a trade on Jan. 3, 2016, and he had eight points (six goals, two assists) in 30 games for the Blackhawks.
"Richard made tremendous strides this past year and we were pleased with the consistency he showed throughout the season," Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said. "We are looking forward to having him in Chicago for the next two seasons."
Panik said he wasn't concerned about stepping into a full-time role with Chicago this season.
"I know how good I am, what I'm capable of and how I can play," Panik said. "Chicago gave me the opportunity and I wanted to show them I deserve a spot on the team. It was my main focus in training camp; earn a spot and go from there. I wanted to repay them."
Panik said he's hoping to be on the Blackhawks' protected list for the NHL Expansion Draft. The Vegas Golden Knights, who will begin play next season, will select one player from each of the 30 teams. The selections will be announced at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on June 21.
"There is still a chance [Las Vegas selects me] but hopefully Chicago will protect me," he said. "In a discussion [with the Blackhawks], my main reason [for signing] was I wanted to stay in Chicago, so hopefully they will protect me and I can stay there."