Prior to coming to Washington in a June, 2016 trade, Caps center Lars Eller spent six seasons with the Montreal Canadiens. If all goes according to plan, he’ll end up spending as many as seven seasons with the Capitals. On Saturday morning, the Caps announced that they’ve signed the pivot to a five-year contract extension at his current salary cap hit of $3.5 million annually.
Scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, Eller has 11 goals and 28 points in 53 games this season. With Washington having 27 games to play, it’s conceivable that Eller, who turns 29 in May, could reach career highs in goals, assists and points this season.
He scored a career best 16 goals with the Habs in 2011-12, his second full NHL season. Eller notched career highs in assists (22) and points (30) in the lockout-abbreviated campaign of 2012-13.
During the course of his NHL career, Eller has been nothing if not consistent. He has totaled between 11-16 goals in six of the last seven seasons including the current one, and he has had between 25-30 points in each of seven straight campaigns, with an excellent chance to exceed the top end of that range in 2017-18.
Eller has slotted in seamlessly as Washington’s third center, and he is a fixture on the team’s penalty killing unit and also plays on its second power-play unit. He averaged 13:54 per night in ice time last season – his lowest figure since he skated 11:08 a night with the Habs as a rookie in 2010-11 – but is back up to 15:10 this season; his career average is 14:33.
Eller combines a tenacious style of play with good speed and the ability to carry and protect the puck. He has proven to be a sturdy and durable player as well, playing in at least 77 games in each of his full (non-lockout) seasons to date.
With Saturday’s contract extension, the Caps will be in the somewhat unique position of having their top three centers under contract for the next two seasons beyond the current one. Nicklas Backstrom’s 10-year contract expires at the end of the 2019-20 season, and Evgeny Kuznetsov is under contract through the 2024-25 season. Eller’s extension will carry him through the 2022-23 season.
The Eller contract is the first major in-season contract extension the Caps have signed with one of their players in the four years general manager Brian MacLellan has been at the personnel helm.
Here’s how the deal breaks down:
Year Total Comp Salary Signing Bonus
’18-19 $5 million $4 million $1 million
’19-20 $4 million $3 million $1 million
’20-21 $2.5 million $2.5 million
’21-22 $3 million $3 million
’22-23 $3 million $3 million