, the Carolina Hurricanes
' Most Valuable Player last season, signed a seven-year, $57.75 million contract extension that runs through the end of the 2015-16 season, the team announced Thursday.
Staal posted team highs of 38 goals, 44 assists and 82 points last season, his fourth in the NHL. He also was named to his second All-Star Game, and took home the MVP award by scoring twice and assisting on the game-winning goal.
The 23-year-old center has 124 goals and 283 points in 327 NHL games. He has missed one game in four seasons, and none since his rookie season.
"I just want to go out and do my thing and obviously I want my team to be successful," Staal said in a press conference announcing the deal. "I look forward to my next eight seasons and (winning the Stanley Cup) again, hopefully sooner."
Staal helped lead the Hurricanes to the 2006 Stanley Cup, when he led his team with 19 assists and 28 points during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It is the only Stanley Cup triumph in the 29-year history of the franchise, which moved to Raleigh, N.C., from Hartford, Conn., at the end of the 1996-97 season.
Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford said he had discussions with Staal's agent in recent weeks and both sides wanted to sign an agreement before training camp opens next week. Staal will play out the final season of the three-year contract he signed in July 2006, with the new deal starting with the 2009-10 season.
Staal will earn $6 million in the deal’s first season, with his salary rising to $9.5 million in the final season, for an average of $8.25 million a year, which will be his salary for cap purposes.
"It wasn't difficult. We all had other things to do," Rutherford said. "... Both sides were pretty confident we could get it done before training camp. ... I am extremely happy to get this done. ... He loves it here."
Staal and Rutherford made it clear that the player, a native of Thunder Bay, Ontario, loves the Raleigh area and believes there is enough talent in the organization to win the Stanley Cup again.
"It's the people and the commitment to try to win again," Staal said in explaining his decision. "For me at a young age to be able to win the Stanley Cup was something I dreamed about my whole life. ... I want to do it again. ... There are guys in the room that there's no reason why we can't get to the playoffs and be able to win again."
The Hurricanes took Staal with the second pick of the 2003 Entry Draft after an outstanding junior career with the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League. He was named to the Canadian Major Junior First All-Star Team that year, an oddity because he was named to the OHL Second Team that year.
Staal had 11 goals and 20 assists in 81 games as a rookie, and has played 82 games in each of his three subsequent seasons.
His best season was 2005-06, when he broke the sophomore jinx by scoring 45 goals and 100 points. He finished eighth in the NHL in goals that season and seventh in points.
Staal was named an alternate captain with the Hurricanes last season, and was named the team's MVP by the Carolina chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association. He led the team in goals, assists, power-play goals (14) and power-play points (35). Staal also had team highs with seven game-winning goals, 310 shots, 56 takeaways, 1,708 faceoffs and 1,774 minutes of ice time. He was the only member of the team to play in every game.
The Hurricanes led the Southeast Conference for most of last season, but a late swoon kept them watching the postseason for the second straight season. Staal, though, had eight goals and 16 assists over the final 15 games.