VANCOUVER — He has become one of their most important forwards, and now Ryan Kesler will be paid like it after signing a massive six-year extension with the Vancouver Canucks worth $30 million.
The cap hit will be $5 million a year for the Canucks' alternate captain, who has emerged into one of the best second-line centres in hockey. Kesler leads all Canucks forwards in ice time and has essentially been a point-a-game centre for more than 100 games now, anchoring what has become one of the league's top second lines.
He was nominated for the Selke award last year and seems destined for another nomination this year. He has 21 goals and 45 assists in 71 games, averaging 19:50 in ice time.
He is making $1.75 million this year. The extension kicks in next season.
During the negotiation, Kesler was seeking $5.5 million per year on a long-term deal. The Canucks were countering with something in the $4.5 million-a-year range.
The Canucks felt it was worth it for them to move to $5 million a year on a six-year deal, because in the last four years of the contract Kesler is giving up his unrestricted free agent status.
The move secures the Canucks' core. They already have Alex Burrows, the Sedin twins, Alex Edler and Roberto Luongo tied up with long-term contracts.
Kesler, 25, will be barely into his 30s when the contract is up.
The centre, who was a force for Team USA at the Olympics, had suggested he would be willing to take less to stay in Vancouver, but this contract suggests he wasn't really considering that.