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Victor Hedman signs 8-year extension with Lightning

Defenseman could have been free agent after this coming season

NHL.com @NHL

Defenseman Victor Hedman signed an eight-year, $63 million contract extension (an average annual value of $7.875 million) with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday. He would have become an unrestricted free agent after this season.

"Staying in Tampa was the No. 1 priority, and to get it done the first day available was the goal from both sides," Hedman said. "[Steven Stamkos] signing a couple of days ago was a big boost for me, as well. ... We want to keep a competitive team. We had a special group down there and a great organization, great management and great coaching.

"So, for me, it was a never a doubt."

Tweet from @heds77: Couldn't be more excited to stay in Tampa for another 8 years! Let's do this..

The second pick of the 2009 NHL Draft, Hedman has 229 points (49 goals, 180 assists) with a plus-30 rating in 470 games, all with the Lightning. The 25-year-old had 47 points (10 goals, 37 assists) with an NHL career-high plus-21 rating last season to help Tampa Bay reach the Eastern Conference Final for a second consecutive season.

"It all came down to both of us wanted to stay and be in Tampa," Hedman said. "We have a lot of good friends on that team and we're a close group. It made the decision way easier. We want to keep a competitive group and have a competitive team. For us moving forward, it's going to be important for everyone to buy into that. For me and [Stamkos], we want to win together. That was a big goal that we have, is to go all the way together with Tampa."

The Lightning re-signed Stamkos to an eight-year, $68 million contract Wednesday.

Video: Hedman signs eight-year extension with Lightning

"It really helps from our perspective trying to plan for next year and beyond knowing, when you know a guy's [salary-cap] number, it helps project for other things," general manager Steve Yzerman said. "Obviously with [Steven] and Vic, these are the two cornerstones -- one was the first pick overall and one was the second pick overall -- very important players to our franchise, really good people representing our organization, high-character guys, great leaders."

Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy signed a three-year, $10. 5 million contract extension Friday. Vasilevskiy, 21, would have been a restricted free agent after this season. Restricted free agent forwards Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn have not yet been re-signed.

"[Kucherov] is an outstanding player, good in all areas of the game, plays good defense, he's a hard worker," Yzerman said. "He's become a leader on our team and a go-to-guy. We're pleased with the core that we have and we're going to do everything we can to keep that core together."

Stamkos played all of last season with free agency hanging over him. Hedman, by signing his extension, and the Lightning will avoid repeating that scenario.

"Victor and Steven are very close," Yzerman said. "I don't know how much they talked about each other's situation. But I know they both want to be here. They both want to win. Steven has been here for all of Victor's career. They have a lot of fun together, they enjoy playing together, and they have had some success together."

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