OTTAWA - Armed with a five-year contract extension and a nice raise, Clarke MacArthur is looking forward to helping the Ottawa Senators return to the playoffs and bounce back from last year's disappointing finish.
MacArthur agreed to terms on a the longest deal of his career Tuesday afternoon. The new contract will pay the 29-year-old winger an average of US$4.65 million per season through the 2019-20 campaign, with a $4.5 million salary in each of the first two years of the deal and $4.75 million in the final three years.
In previous contract negotiations, MacArthur had never signed anything longer that a two-year deal with the exception of his three-year entry-level contract.
He is entering the final year of the two-year, $6.5-million deal he signed with Ottawa before last season, and the Senators made it clear from the end of the season that their preference was to re-sign him.
"We kind of talked about it at my year end meeting with (general manager) Bryan (Murray)," MacArthur said Wednesday on a conference call. "He asked me if Ottawa was something I enjoyed and if I would be willing to do (an extension) and I said yes. And as far as the negotiations went it was on and off for a couple weeks going through years and term and stuff like that and I couldn't be happier to get it out of the way before camp."
Murray told reporters Tuesday that when you like a player you don't waste any time locking him up.
"As hockey people, we think it's the kind of character we want in our room, and there's been a clear commitment by (owner Eugene Melnyk) to lock up our best players," Murray said.
The Senators are also working on extensions with winger Bobby Ryan, defenceman Marc Methot and goaltender Craig Anderson. Murray said the team has held discussions with Ryan through his agent.
MacArthur quickly found chemistry with Kyle Turris and Ryan last season, and the trio proved to be Ottawa's most efficient and productive line. MacArthur joked that he would now work on encouraging Ryan to sign an extension to keep the trio together.
While Ryan was often shuffled around, the chemistry between Turris and MacArthur was clear.
MacArthur finished the season scoring a career-high 24 goals, ranked fourth in team scoring with 55 points and had a career best plus-12 rating.
In many ways the Senators seemed to be in a downward spiral since the loss of longtime captain Daniel Alfredsson in the summer of 2013.
This past summer saw yet another captain leave as Jason Spezza requested a trade and was dealt to the Dallas Stars.
Despite key players leaving, MacArthur said Ottawa was exactly where he wanted to be.
"It's a place I'm happy to stay, there's no question about that," MacArthur said. "I wasn't looking to play the season out and see what was out there. I wanted to be here. I really enjoyed playing with Turris and Bobby Ryan last year and I just love the potential of our team, and this is the year we've got to get back into the playoffs. All those things kind of factored into this decision."
MacArthur said last year was difficult for everyone, but he said his new deal gives him the chance to help rebuild a winning tradition in Ottawa.
"Obviously last year wasn't what we were looking for, but as a young team I still feel we're on the up-and-up," he said. "For me to get a deal of this length, it gives me a chance over the next six years to try and make this team a winning team and I'm looking forward to that."
Spezza's departure leaves the team without a captain, and MacArthur said he would gladly take on more responsibility if asked.
"If they want me to wear a letter I'll wear a letter and if not I'm going to go about my business the same way," he said. "I didn't wear (a letter) last year…I think we all just need to chip in. I don't think it really matters who wears the letters because I definitely won't lose any sleep over it. As long as we have that core group of guys pulling everyone in the right direction then we'll be in good shape."
Murray said regardless of who the captain is, MacArthur is a valuable member of the team's core.
"I don't know whether he'll have a letter on his sweater, but he behaves like a captain, he behaves like a core player," said Murray.