A new six-year contract will give Carolina Hurricanes center Victor Rask financial and professional security, and is a major commitment from the team.
Rask, in return, said Tuesday his goal was to help the Canes return to the playoffs and again contend for a Stanley Cup.
The Canes announced Tuesday that Rask had agreed to the deal that will pay him $4 million a year through the 2021-22 season.
Rask, 23, set career highs at 21 goals and 48 points in 2015-16 despite playing part of the year with an injured shoulder that required surgery soon after his second NHL season.
“I feel really good about it,” Rask said of the new contract. “This is where I want to be. I feel something really good is going on with our team and I’m very happy I’ll be staying for the next six years.”
Rask was a restricted free agent and general manager Ron Francis, asked at Saturday’s Summerfest about contract negotiations with Rask, said the two sides were having good conversations about a new deal. It was a matter, as Francis has put it, of settling on the right term and the right price.
“I kind of wanted a six-year deal,” Rask said. “As I said, I believe we’re going the right way with this team, and it’s been great for me since day one. I think it was a good deal for me and I think they got a good deal. I’m happy.”
Rask underwent shoulder surgery in Raleigh soon after the season before returning home to Sweden. He said he has spent the first part of the summer in physical rehab at home, saying, “That has been great and it feels really good right now.”
In looking to next season, Rask said he believed the Canes could reach the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2009.
“I think we’ve added some good players in trades and made some good draft picks, too,” he said. “As for me, I just want to keep improving each year. That’s the most important thing. I want to be one of those guys they put out there if we’re down a goal, or up a goal and trying to keep the lead, a two-way center who plays well and can help the team.
“I’m not going to change too much. I want to be a leader on the ice.”
Rask had five game-winning goals, two in overtime. His 48 points tied for second among the Hurricanes skaters last season – three points behind team leader Jeff Skinner – and he led the team with 18 power-play points.
Rask played 80 games, was second on the team with 27 assists and fourth among the forwards in ice time per game (16 minutes, 58 seconds.) He improved his shooting percentage to 13.1 percent from 6.4 percent as a rookie, and continued to be strong in the faceoff circle, winning 51.23 percent of his draws.
“Victor has gotten better every season that he’s been a part of our organization,” Francis said in a statement. “He is a big part of this team’s present and future, and we are thrilled to sign him to a longer-term deal.”
Rask, from Leksand, Sweden, was taken by Carolina in the second round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, 42nd overall. After two years with the Calgary Hitmen in the Western Hockey League, he played 76 games with the Charlotte Checkers – the Canes’ American Hockey League affiliate – in 2013-14, his first full pro season.
When Canes center Jordan Staal suffered a broken leg before the 2014-15 season, Rask was given the opportunity to play in the NHL and finished his rookie season with 11 goals and 22 assists in 80 games.
Rask has represented Sweden in various international tournaments, including the 2012 and 2013 World Junior Championships, winning gold in 2012 and silver in 2013. He also played for Sweden in the 2015 World Championship.
Known as a player who rarely changes expression or shows emotion on the ice, even after scoring game-winning goals, Rask said Tuesday’s signing – worth more than 200 million Swedish krona – did make a difference.
“I have a huge smile today,” he said.