RALEIGH The Carolina Hurricanes knew they had some hefty contracts to hand out starting next offseason, and they got jump on one of them by signing defenseman Jaccob Slavin to a seven-year contract Wednesday that will pay him on average $5.3 million a season. The new deal kicks in for the 2018-19 season.Slavin, 23, has emerged as a force on the Carolina blue line the last two seasons, becoming a top-pairing defenseman despite having just 145 games of NHL experience.”We think Jaccob is one of the best young defensemen in the National Hockey League,” Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis said at a press conference announcing the extension on Wednesday. “We think he has tremendous upside in addition to that. We think he’s part of one of the best young defense corps in the game, if not the best, and in addition to that he’s also a man of extreme character.”The 2012 fourth-round pick (120th overall) played two seasons at Colorado College and seemed to be leaning toward returning for his junior year before deciding to sign and turn pro in 2015.”It’s definitely really interesting to see how that worked out,” Slavin said. “My college buddies graduated from CC this year, and so thinking I could’ve been graduating this year vs. where we are now, it’s, like you said, pretty surreal to look at that that way. But we’re just extremely excited to be here.”Slavin started the 2015-16 season in the AHL with the Charlotte Checkers, but played just 14 games there before being recalled to Raleigh. He ended up playing more than 20 minutes a night his rookie year and increased his workload last season to 23:36 per game, the most on the Hurricanes. He had five goals and 29 assists while playing all 82 games last year and received votes for three postseason awards: the Norris Trophy (top defenseman, 20th place); the Lady Byng Trophy (gentlemanly play, T-21st place); and NHL postseason All-Star Team (T-25th place). He has accumulated just 20 penalty minutes in more than 3,200 minutes played in the NHL.”I’ll gladly take them,” Slavin said of the two fifth-place votes he received for the Norris. “League-wide notice for me doesn’t really matter. I’m just going to continue to play my game and continue to try to help the team win the best that i can. Notoriety, for me, doesn’t get in my head or doesn’t really matter for me too much.”Slavin’s maturity, even-keeled nature and commitment to the Triangle he and his wife, Kylie, moved to the area once Slavin stablished himself as an NHLer have impressed Francis and the Hurricanes nearly as much as his play on the ice, making it easy to make the long-term commitment.”I think you look at each situation individually, and in this case we felt comfortable with Jaccob and the type of person he is that this contract in general was not going to change who he is or how hard he worked or how he played,” Francis said. “I think when you get comfortable with that, it’s pretty easy to make the commitment to a six- or seven-year deal. In this case, we were comfortable doing seven years.”The Hurricanes have not had a captain since Eric Staal was traded to the Rangers at the 2015 trade deadline, and Slavin armed with responsibility and now a long deal is considered a candidate.”Letter or no letter, it doesn’t matter,” Slavin said. “I mean, I’m going to be who I am and be the person that God created me to be leadership-wise on and off the ice, and I don’t think that’s going to change the way I play or change the way I am in the locker room or the presence that I carry.”Slavin will be in the final year of his entry-level contract in 2017-18, earning $832,500. Fellow defensemen Brett Pesce and Noah Hanifin will also be due raises after next season when their initial three-year contracts expire. Francis hinted he has had talks with both their camps, and perhaps forward Elias Lindholm who will be a restricted free agent next summer as well.”I don’t want to mention who, but we have reached out to a lot of our guys in similar situations that Jake was in,” Francis said. “And some we are in discussions with, some are going to get back to us and we’ll see how those proceed over the upcoming month.”For Slavin, he will have eight seasons before he has to think about contract negotiations again, and his focus is on helping Carolina return to the postseason.”The moves that Ron has made over the past couple months have been unbelievable and just gets me really excited to be a part of this future and be here in Raleigh with this organization for the next eight years,” Slavin said. “I’m really excited for the season to start and I think all the moves are just trending in the right direction.”Francis seemed excited for the future, too.”We certainly think we’re a lot better off today than we were three years ago, and hopefully that translates to the success we think we can have as an organization on the ice moving forward,” he said.
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