For the last few years, the Arizona Coyotes organization is where lofty contracts went to die. They acquired many contracts of players who would never play a game for them like Dave Bolland, Pavel Datsyuk and Marian Hossa in order to reach the salary cap floor. Those days appear to be over!
Keller Cashes in After Impressive Start to Career
After acquiring All-Star Phil Kessel earlier in the offseason, the Coyotes announced a big extension for Clayton Keller on Wednesday. The 21-year-old center inked an eight-year extension that will pay him a total of $57.2 million, according to Elliotte Friedman. His $7.15 million salary-cap hit will kick in at the start of the 2020-21 season and he is locked up through 2027-28.
“Clayton is elite in every sense of the word,” said Coyotes general manager John Chayka in an official release. “He is not only an All-Star and one of the premier 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 (Coyotes’ owner) Mr. Meruelo’s willingness to invest in our future and solidify one of our core players here in Arizona for a long time.”
Keller had a big rookie season in 2017-18 with 23 goals and 65 points, the most by any Coyotes first-year player in team history. His terrific season included a 10-game point streak and multiple Rookie of the Month awards. The former seventh-overall draft pick finished third in the 2018 Calder Trophy voting for the league’s top rookie behind Mathew Barzal and Brock Boeser.
His production dipped a bit last season with 14 goals and 47 points, but he still led the team in scoring. Keller has not missed a game over the first two seasons of his NHL.
“This is a truly special day for my family and I,” Keller said. “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.”
Keller is a Key Building Block for Future Success
Some may feel that the Coyotes may have rushed into a big-money, long-term deal but it is obvious they feel Keller is a cornerstone of the franchise’s future. He was the youngest player in team history to play in an All-Star Game last season and he is starting to put his name all over the Coyotes’ record book.
He became just the third player in franchise history to have four separate point streaks of at least six games within the first 100 games of his career. The only other players accomplish that feat were Dale Hawerchuk and Teemu Selanne. Any time you are on a list with the likes of Hawerchuk and Selanne, you are doing something right.
Keller’s 28 goals and 79 points through his first 100 games is another team record. He also has the most points before a player’s 21st birthday in Coyotes history with 90.
Not only does this take one of the biggest restricted free agents off the market this summer, but the deal will also help set the market for other young players looking to cash in like Keller’s former teammate Dylan Strome and Chicago Blackhawks star Alex DeBrincat.
Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. And, just because his plate isn’t full enough, Greg hosts trivia in the Chicago area two nights a week. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.