Phoenix Coyotes center Steve Sullivan takes the puck past Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, March 6, 2013, in Anaheim, Calif. The Ducks won 2-0. (AP Photo/Bret Hartman)
Ryan Getzlaf figured he couldn't find anything in free agency that he didn't already have with the Anaheim Ducks.
The Ducks re-signed their captain to an eight-year, $66 million contract on Friday, keeping the playmaking centre with his only NHL team through the 2020-21 season.
Getzlaf could have been an unrestricted free agent this summer along with Corey Perry, the former NHL MVP and his longtime linemate. Instead, Getzlaf and Ducks general manager Bob Murray agreed to the longest contract extension allowed under the new collective bargaining agreement.
"It's always been my goal to be here," Getzlaf told reporters after the morning skate for the Ducks' home game against Calgary. "I've always envisioned myself playing for one team, especially this organization. It's been great to me. It's nice to be settled in and knowing that I'm going to be here for a long time."
The 27-year-old Getzlaf has 499 points in 534 games with Anaheim, establishing himself as one of the NHL's top playmakers and the third-leading scorer in Ducks history. He won the Stanley Cup in 2007 and became Anaheim's captain in 2010.
After struggling last year to his lowest-scoring performance in a full NHL season, Getzlaf is in the midst of an outstanding year for the streaking Ducks (16-3-3), who have the NHL's second-best record behind Chicago.
Getzlaf has nine goals and 18 assists with a plus-10 rating in just 22 games this season, tying with Chicago's Patrick Kane for the Western Conference scoring lead. Getzlaf is making $6.125 million this season in the final year of his current contract
Bruce Boudreau has praised Getzlaf as one of the NHL's premier centres since the veteran coach took over the Ducks in late 2011.
"He's just starting to get into the prime of his hockey career," Boudreau said. "I thought it was a great job by Bob and the organization, and (we're) grateful to Ryan to want to stay here."
Perry hasn't yet re-signed with Anaheim, and has seemed more interested than Getzlaf in exploring free agency. The gold medal-winning Canadian Olympians have spent their entire careers with Anaheim, which drafted them together in the first round in 2003.
"I've wanted to be here, and I've wanted Corey to be here," Getzlaf said. "We've had lots of conversations, and me and Perrs will talk along the way here, I'm sure, and hopefully they can get it done."
Murray has been eager to re-sign both Getzlaf and Perry even though Anaheim has won just one playoff round in the five seasons since the franchise's only Stanley Cup title. After several years of slow starts by the Ducks, the cornerstone duo has justified Murray's faith in them this season with strong play, pacing Anaheim to a significant lead in the Pacific Division near the midway point of the lockout-shortened season.
"(Getlzaf) is a leader, a proven winner, and possesses a skill set that's hard to find," Murray said. "This is a great day for the Ducks."
Only Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya have scored more points for the Ducks than Getzlaf, who rose through Anaheim's minor-league system alongside Perry and debuted for the still-Mighty Ducks in 2005. Getzlaf and Perry teamed with Dustin Penner on the Ducks' "Kid Line" during their run to the franchise's only NHL title in 2007, with Getzlaf raising the Cup as a 22-year-old second-year pro.
The ensuing half-decade hasn't been as successful for the Ducks, with their only playoff series victory over top-seeded San Jose in 2009. Getzlaf scored at least 69 points in each of Anaheim's four seasons after its championship run, but his production dropped to just 57 points with a career-low 11 goals last season while the Ducks missed the post-season for the second time in three years.
Getzlaf attributed last season's struggles partly to the stress of new fatherhood, but he has bounced back impressively in his contract season. He is sixth in the NHL in assists, and the offence-mindedcentre has even improved his defensive play.
"We had a motivation from last year in the fact that we didn't have a very good season, and everything going into this season was about getting off to a good start and putting a good product on the ice," Getzlaf said.
Getzlaf also has been active in the Orange County community, participating in countless charity events and making his year-round home in the area. His wife, Paige, is from Orange County.
"I love it here," Getzlaf said. "The fans, everybody has been great to me. This is obviously where we call home right now, and for a long time."
Perry is making $4.875 million this season in the final year of his contract, which had the same term and total compensation as Getzlaf's last deal. Although the Ducks have made long-term commitments to several veteran players, Murray has said Anaheim could find the salary-cap room to re-sign both Getzlaf and Perry.
Anaheim has five defencemen signed to multiyear contracts, but Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan are the Ducks' only forwards signed beyond next season.
"The move that they made, it's a show that the team is really committed to win and build a team around Getzy," the 42-year-old Selanne said. "So that's always great news, and it gives a lot of trust and confidence (to) the other players, too."