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Joni Pitkanen of the Carolina Hurricanes, left, was his team's highest paid defenceman last season. He earned $4.5 million US. ((John Amis/Associated Press))

The Carolina Hurricanes re-signed defenceman Joni Pitkanen and forward Patrick Dwyer to multiyear contracts Tuesday.   

The Hurricanes announced the deals three days before the players could have become unrestricted free agents.   

Pitkanen agreed to a three-year contract that will pay him $4.5 million US per season, the Hurricanes said. Dwyer received a two-year deal and will make $600,000 this season and $650,000 in 2012-13.   

Pitkanen, 27, led Carolina defencemen last season with 30 assists. He made $4.5 million last season and remains the team's highest-paid defenceman. The Hurricanes earned points in the standings in 26 of the 30 games in which he had either a goal or an assist.   

"Joni has been a very important part of our defense as he plays in all situations," general manager Jim Rutherford said. "He plays a lot of minutes, and is one of the top puck movers in the league. We are very pleased that he wanted to return to the Hurricanes."   

Dwyer, 28, made $500,000 last season and had career highs of eight goals, 10 assists and 80 games played.   

"Patrick has become a durable and reliable NHL forward," Rutherford said. "He is a very strong penalty killer, and he brings a lot of speed and energy to our group of forwards."