A day after naming Joffrey Lupul an alternate captain, the Maple Leafs showed just how much faith they have in the 29-year-old left-winger.
Toronto signed Lupul to a five-year contract extension Sunday, rewarding him for a career year last season. Lupul recorded 25 goals and 42 assists in 2011-12, second-most on the Leafs roster and career highs in assists and points.
"He clearly had the desire to have another good year, wanted to have more of a leadership role — which has been recognized by the coaching staff — and we felt strongly that he's a player that will be part of the solution moving forward and he would be a big part of a winning team here in Toronto," said Leafs general manager Dave Nonis.
Lupul is now signed through to the 2017-18 season. Although the team did not release details of the contract, Nonis was pleased with the deal that is reportedly worth US$26.25 million.
"The deal made sense to us both financially and with respect to the dollars and the term and we were happy to get it done," said Nonis.
When asked if a no-trade or no-movement clause was included in the deal, Nonis said there's a "limited no trade, but the player is moveable would be your short answer."
Toronto acquired Lupul along with defenceman Jake Gardiner from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Francois Beauchemin on Feb. 9, 2011.
Lupul has 151 goals and 172 assists in 517 games with Toronto, Anaheim, the Philadelphia Flyers and Edmonton Oilers. The Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., native was originally selected seventh overall by the Ducks in the 2002 draft.
Lupul recovers from spinal cord contusion
He was diagnosed with a spinal cord contusion in 2007 — his first season with Philadelphia — after a collision with teammate Derian Hatcher. Lupul missed the final 59 games of the 2009-10 season and the first 28 games of the 2010-11 campaign as the result of a blood infection after back surgery to repair the contusion.
Nonis said he's not concerned about Lupul's age or injury history.
"He's not an old man now, he's still in his 20s," said Nonis. "The injuries, yes, there's always risk with injuries. He has had some injuries in the past. The back injury was something that set him back for well over a year but he hasn't had any issues with that whatsoever since he's been here.
"In fact, it's probably as strong as it's ever been."
Nonis said Lupul's determination to stay fit and give maximum effort for the Leafs was one of the reasons the team extended his contract.
"He's very, very focused in terms of his body and being healthy," said Nonis. "Is there some risk there? There's always risk when you sign a player to more than one year, but his age isn't a factor at all. In fact, he's been getting better as he's been getting a little older.
"Players are in much better condition than they have been in the past and we're very comfortable with where he's going to be."
Nonis said getting a deal done with Lupul early in the season was a priority so the spectre of free agency wouldn't become a distraction.
"He doesn't have to worry about it, we don't have to worry about it," said Nonis. "He's an important part of our team moving forward. We just felt it was the right time to get something done — if it made sense — and to us it made sense.
"We're happy that Loops wants to be in Toronto at least six more years."