The Blues have signed defenseman Carl Gunnarsson to a three-year, $8.7 million contract extension, the club announced prior to Friday’s game against Anaheim.
This is the second extension Gunnarsson has signed in his NHL career.
"It feels nice," said Gunnarsson. "I hadn't thought that much about it but we started talking and eventually we both got to where we were both happy and I'm happy to be here for another three years. I am thrilled to get it done."
Gunnarsson, 29, was set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season. It would have been the defenseman’s first opportunity to hit the open market since being drafted by Toronto in 2007.
"I've never been on the free agency market so that was certainly appealing but we get along, we found a deal we were both happy with and I like what we have going on here," said Gunnarsson.
A large part of the reason Gunnarsson opted to sign in-season and bypass his chance to hit the open market this summer was his feeling on the team's opportunity to win now and down the road.
"Absolutely," said Gunnarsson. "The future was a big part of it."
With his new deal, Gunnarsson will make $2.9 million annually over the contract’s length. The blue liner’s last deal had a cap hit of $3.15 million. The Blues were left to pay just $2.95 million after deducting the salary retained by the Maple Leafs when Gunnarsson was traded two seasons ago.
The Orebro, Sweden native was in the final year of a three-year, $9.45 million deal signed in 2013 when he was with Toronto. Since being acquired by the Blues, Gunnarsson has appeared in 124 games, posting 20 points (four goals, 16 assists). He added to that total with an assist Friday, his eighth point of the season.
Gunnarsson has been paired with every right-handed shot on the roster this season. His flexibility makes him an asset in the eyes of management and the coaching staff.
"He's a good partner," said head coach Ken Hitchcock. "You can play him up and down the lineup; you can play him 20 minutes, 15 minutes. You get guys like that and they are glue guys on your hockey club. They are underrated players and you have to have those types of players."
While the extension was inked long before puck drop, most of Gunnarsson's teammates found out the news via social media. The defenseman isn't exactly a man of many words.
"It couldn't happen to a better guy," said forward Paul Stastny. "Everyone is excited. We are happy to have him around for a few more years. He's so quiet around here. He didn't tell us anything; we had to find out on our own."
Gunnarsson’s extension includes a no trade clause and will take him through the 2018-19 season. At that point, the defenseman will become an unrestricted free agent.