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Arizona Coyotes sign 8-year extension with forward Clayton Keller

Arizona Coyotes center Clayton Keller (9) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal in the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Vancouver Canucks, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. Arizona defeated Vancouver 4-1. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The batch of unsigned restricted free agents has been a major story this offseason across the NHL, but the Arizona Coyotes have taken one off the board from next year’s class.

Coyotes forward Clayton Keller, who would have been eligible to become a restricted free agent in the 2020 offseason, has signed an extension with the team for eight years. The contract is for an average annual value of $7.15 million, according to The Athletic’s Craig Morgan and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

The deal would make Keller the second-highest paid player on the team behind captain defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

“Clayton is elite in every sense of the word,” GM John Chayka said in a press release. “He is not only an All-Star and one of the premiere offensive playmakers in the league, but he is equally special as a person with his drive and determination to be great. We are thankful to Clayton for believing in our future and look forward to him playing a vital role on this team for many years to come. We are also very appreciative of Mr. Meruelo’s willingness to invest in our future and solidify one of our core players here in Arizona for a long time.”

Keller, who is going into his third full season, has led the Coyotes in points in both of the years he’s played in the NHL. That said, his point total of 47 last year ranked him tied for 121st in the league among all NHL skaters. He registered 14 goals and 33 assists, and the year before had 23 goals with 42 assists for 65 points.

The seventh overall pick in 2016 was considered an elite prospect coming out of Boston University, and his rookie campaign put him third in the Calder Trophy voting for the NHL’s top rookie.

“This is a truly special day for my family and I,” Keller said in the release. “I love everything about being a Coyote. My teammates are great. We have a great coaching staff. Everything about this organization is on the right track and I know we have an opportunity to do some special things here for a long time. Arizona is where I want to be and I’m proud to commit to the Coyotes long term. I’m thankful to the organization for believing in me and believing in what we can accomplish moving forward.”

In 2017-18, Keller was the first rookie in Coyotes history to win multiple Rookie of the Month awards. He enters this year with the third-most assists among players selected in the 2016 draft and last year became the youngest player in team history to be selected to the All-Star game.

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