EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) Defenseman Jake Muzzin agreed to a five-year, $20 million contract extension with the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday, passing on a chance at free agency to stick with the defending Stanley Cup champions
Muzzin hasn’t played for the Kings yet this season while recovering from an upper-body injury, but his new deal keeps him with the Kings through the 2019-20 season.
”This is the place I want to stay, and I want to play here for a long time,” Muzzin said after practice at the Kings’ training complex. ”I’m happy we got a deal done.”
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Los Angeles signed Muzzin as a free agent in January 2010 after he went undrafted in 2009, but he has evolved into a solid NHL defenseman with the potential for even more. Muzzin usually plays alongside Drew Doughty in the Kings’ top defensive pairing, and his new deal extends through his first few potential seasons of unrestricted free agency.
”Good for Jake, good for us,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. ”It just shows the progress that the organization and he have made in terms of developing and getting better, and finding your spot and knowing you’re in a good place.”
Muzzin is beloved among aficionados of advanced hockey statistics for the Kings’ puck-possession and shot-differential success when he’s on the ice. The Woodstock, Ontario, native also is respected by old-school hockey types like Sutter and Doughty for his toughness and big shot.
Muzzin has scored 41 points in 132 regular-season games for the Kings, and he added 15 points in 43 playoff games over the past two seasons. He led all NHL defensemen with six playoff goals last season during the Kings’ 26-game championship run.
”From the previous year before that, to build off that year and to carry that into last year, the way it ended up was very special for everyone,” Muzzin said. ”Just to build from those experiences, and then to get a deal done early and get that off everyone’s mind, I’m happy.”
Muzzin made his NHL debut and played in 11 games for the Kings during the 2010-11 season, but didn’t crack the lineup in 2011-12. He was a healthy scratch during Los Angeles’ run to its first Stanley Cup title that spring.
Muzzin joined Marian Gaborik in agreeing to a contract possibly worth less than his value on the open free-agent market to stay with the Kings, who are trying to stay positioned for long-term success and stability after winning 10 playoff series in the past three years.
Muzzin isn’t likely to make his season debut for the Kings (2-1-1) this week, but hopes to return before Los Angeles’ six-game homestand ends next week.
”To get it done now, I can just concentrate on getting healthy and getting ready to go,” Muzzin said.