The Phoenix Coyotes locked up one of their building blocks for the future Friday, signing defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson to a six-year contract.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed by the team.
Ekman-Larsson, 21, played in all 82 games for the Pacific Division champion Coyotes in 2011-12, scoring 13 goals and adding 19 assists.
“Oliver is an exceptional young player who will continue to improve as he matures,” Coyotes GM Don Maloney said in a press release. “He is an important part of our future and we are pleased to have agreed on a long term contract.”
The Coyotes defenseman noted Friday night that he needed to elevate his play in 2013, and he’s certainly done that this season. The native of Sweden has three goals and 14 assists in 27 games for Phoenix.
“I knew my contract was up after this year,” Ekman-Larsson said in a conference call. “But I just try to play good every game and work hard in practice, and help the team win. That’s what I have to do. I’m not going to change anything. I have to keep doing what I do.”
The deal allows the Coyotes to keep their top-line blueliners intact, as Keith Yandle was signed to a five-year deal back in July 2011.
“When a 21-year-old is your top scorer, a top plus/minus player and one of the best ice-time players in the league being mentioned as a Norris Trophy finalist, we felt the sooner we get him signed to a long-term deal the better,” said Maloney in a conference call.
Ekman-Larsson was originally drafted by the Coyotes with a first-round selection (sixth overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.