RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -Scott Walker passed on free agency and will return to Carolina after agreeing to a three-year, $7.5 million contract with the Hurricanes on Wednesday.
Walker, a rugged right wing who could have become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, will make $2.5 million a season. Entering his 13th NHL season in 2007-08, he becomes the latest key player to re-sign with the Hurricanes.
"It was one of the best experiences that I had in renegotiating. I felt really wanted," Walker said. "I like my role, but I also like the way the team is set up for the future, and I think we have a chance to win."
Carolina acquired the 33-year-old Walker last summer in the deal that sent center Josef Vasicek to Nashville. He fit in immediately with the Hurricanes, ending the season sixth on the team with 21 goals and 30 assists. He had 45 penalty minutes in 81 games, adding toughness to a roster built primarily around speed.
"Keeping Scott in Carolina was one of our top priorities this offseason," general manager Jim Rutherford said. "He brings skill and grit to our forward lines and he has become one of our team's leaders on and off the ice."
Carolina has invested more than $27 million in bringing back several key players from a team that failed to make the playoffs one year after winning the franchise's first Stanley Cup in 2006.
After their disappointing regular season, the Hurricanes signed three players to three-year deals: left wing Ray Whitney ($10.5 million), goalie Cam Ward ($8 million) and Walker, who made $1.5 million last season. They also signed defenseman Glen Wesley, heading into his 20th season in the NHL, to a one-year, $1.4 million deal.
"This team is a good young team and a bunch of good guys, so it was pretty easy to fit in," Walker said. "I watched a lot and learned a lot from those guys - even the younger guys, because they won the Stanley Cup. They taught me a lot, but I also appreciated learning from (captain Rod Brind'Amour) and Glen Wesley and how older guys take care of themselves and train to be better."