Saturday morning, in a surprise move, the Washington Capitals announced the re-signing of third-line center Lars Eller to a five-year, $17.5 million contract extension that will keep The Great Dane in DC through 2023.
At age 28, Eller is on pace to set career highs in goals, assists, points, and shots on goal. The third-line center also set a career high in possession last season (54.60 shot attempts percentage) and is one of only seven skaters to be above water this year (50.04%).
Since arriving in DC in 2016 after a trade with Montreal, Eller has been a steady and constant producer from the team’s middle six. He simply makes everyone around him better. Eller was the driving force behind a dominant third line last year with Andre Burakovsky and Brett Connolly. Connolly scored a career-high 15 goals during the 2016-17 campaign and already has 13 goals through 45 games this year.
During his press conference with reporters Saturday, Eller expressed all the reasons why he re-signed: from the city to the team’s culture and winning.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 10, 2018
How do you feel about re-signing?
Lars Eller: “All I can say is I’m really happy to be standing here today. This club and this city has been a great fit for me personally and my family. There’s just so many things that have been good about it. It’s been good for my career. I feel like I’ve found my game here, especially this year. So I couldn’t be happier to make this happen.”
What’s the biggest difference between your six years in Montreal and here?
Lars Eller: I found some confidence in who I am as a player and what I can do. I sort of got to start to meet my own expectations. That was one of the big things.”
[An unidentified player screams in the background]
A lot of forwards look forward to becoming a UFA. You signed early. Why?
Lars Eller: It’s a good point. In my case, I’m only going to have one time to be a UFA when I’m in my twenties. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Looking at the options, I wanted to stay here. Like I said before, it’s a good fit for me on the team. I think the team is going to be competition, but not just this year, with the core they have, I think we’re going to continue to be a top team. It’s certainly more fun to be on a team that you know is going to be competitive. That’s the case here. There was a lot of things that made sense for me to try and strike a deal. When both sides found out that there was common ground, it made sense to get it done.”
When did this come together?
Lars Eller: “A couple of days ago, it went really fast from the first contact, from the first talks started. I think both sides probably found out that we could find common ground and make sense. They wanted to keep me. I wanted to be here. So, yeah, that’s how it worked out.”
Your role hasn’t changed. How has that consistency in the lineup helped you?
Lars Eller: “Yeah, it does help. I don’t like to go back to talk about it, but it was a different situation in Montreal, but I have more stability here. I get to learn from some of the best players in the league. Looking at Backy and Kuzy every day, there’s just a lot to learn from. It’s a cultural thing, when you’re around good players, if you put in the work, you’ll be a good player if you’re willing to learn and all of that. I think I’ve grown a lot since I came here. Part of that is being on a good team with a good culture with good players you can learn from and watch. I wanted to continue to be a part of that.”
You could have gone to free agency with a better contract.
Lars Eller: “That was part of the considerations. You could possibly get a better deal, but you don’t know where, what kind of team. So there’s a risk and reward. You have to make some decisions, but I made the decision I wanted to be here.”
Today in the Caps' locker room …
Oshie to Eller: "You know the house next to mine is for sale …"
Backstrom to Eller: "Where are you buying dinner tonight?"
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) February 10, 2018
Headline photo: @Capitals
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