FILE - In this May 4, 2011, file photo, San Jose Sharks\' Devin Setoguchi celebrates his game-winning goal against the Detroit Red Wings in overtime of Game 3 during a second-round NHL Stanley Cup playoff hockey series in Detroit. The Sharks have signed Setoguchi to a $9 million, three-year contract to prevent him from becoming a restricted free agent next month. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson, File)
The San Jose Sharks once again signed a key player before he could test the free agent market, agreeing Thursday to a US$9 million, three-year deal with forward Devin Setoguchi.
Setoguchi was eligible to become a restricted free agent July 1 but wanted to stay in San Jose. The feeling was mutual as the Sharks got the deal done early.
"I couldn't be happier right now," Setoguchi said on a conference call. "San Jose is such a great place to play. The organization is great. The team is top-notch. All the way through, it's the best place to play in the National Hockey League."
The Sharks have traditionally done a good job locking up their key players without allowing them to test the market.
San Jose signed star forward Patrick Marleau to a $27.6 million, four-year deal a week before he could have become an unrestricted free agent last summer and gave centre Joe Pavelski a $16 million, four-year contract before he became a restricted free agent. Captain Joe Thornton signed a $21 million, three-year contract in October rather than be able to test free agency this summer.
Now they have reached a deal to keep Setoguchi in the fold for three more years.
"We're very fortunate that our players know when you're building a team and we've treated our players pretty consistently over the years," general manager Doug Wilson said. "The guys who want to be here help us to the best of their abilities with contracts that are fair. This is certainly an example of that."
Setoguchi got paid $1.8 million last season when he got off to a lacklustre start before finishing with 22 goals and 19 assists in the regular season. He added seven goals and three assists in the playoffs, including overtime goals to beat Los Angeles and Detroit in the first two rounds.
The 24-year-old forward scored 15 goals in his final 33 games, while playing mostly on the top line with Thornton and Marleau.
"He's obviously a very talented player who certainly has shown what he's capable of in the last half of the year and the playoffs," Wilson said. "We feel he's an important piece trending in the right direction and we're happy to have this deal done."
Setoguchi has 84 goals in four seasons in the NHL, including a career-high 31 two years ago. He also has 75 assists in 267 games and has one of the best shots on the Sharks.
"There's still a lot of room for me to improve," he said. "The one thing would be the consistency part of my game. That's the one thing we're really trying to work on with my trainers and overall I'm still growing as a player and a person. I feel like I'm gaining experience with every year that I play."