Banking on Ryan Getzlaf's becoming their next great star, the Ducks will pay him like one -- before others can get their hands on him.
Averting a situation such as the one they faced with Dustin Penner over the summer, the Ducks signed Getzlaf, 22, to a five-year contract extension worth more than $26.6 million.
The contract will kick in after this season and will pay the center an average of $5.325 million over the length of the deal. Getzlaf will make $4.5 million next season, and his salary will escalate to $6.125 million in 2012-13.
"To me, this is an important day for the franchise," General Manager Brian Burke said. "He's the whole package."
Having become the club's No. 1 center, Getzlaf leads the team with 21 points and is tied for second with seven goals. Making $623,000 in the final year of his three-year rookie deal, he would have become a restricted free agent in July.
Of the lengthy extension, Getzlaf said, "It's something that I wanted. I was looking to sign a long-term deal and be one of the top guys on this team."
Locking up Getzlaf beyond this season became a priority after the Ducks let Penner go over the summer, unwilling to match the Edmonton Oilers' five-year, $21.25-million offer sheet. Penner, who had just completed his rookie season, became a target when the Ducks instead focused their efforts on signing free agents Mathieu Schneider and Todd Bertuzzi because of the possible retirements of Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne.
Despite losing Penner, the Ducks have been clear all along that the talented Getzlaf was higher in their pecking order. Burke, however, was angered at Edmonton for driving up the salaries of young players.
"It is a real threat for any player in this age group," Burke said. "Now you've got to seek common group to lock these players up."
Concerned at the amount Getzlaf could demand if he had a standout 2007-08 campaign, Burke decided to forgo his policy of not negotiating contracts during the season.
Getzlaf figured to be an offer-sheet target but said security was more important. "Obviously, it's a situation that we didn't want to face this summer," he said. "And it's obviously a place where I want to play and I love being here. I was given an opportunity to negotiate a contract this early, and the team showed that they wanted me here as much as I wanted to be here. It was nice to get that out of the way."
Getzlaf had 25 goals and 58 points last season and became a force in the Ducks' run to the Stanley Cup title, leading all playoff performers with 17 points.
Burke called the $5.325-million figure "astronomical" but said it reflects the market. "Our goal is to pay our players fairly but not to overpay them," he said. "It also reflects Ryan's contribution to the team.
"[Coach] Randy [Carlyle] and I have said this before. Ryan Getzlaf can be as good as he wants to be. Usually that means it's a slap in the face. It's not at all. We mean it as the highest compliment."
Whether Bertuzzi plays tonight -- in what would be his first game since Oct. 14 -- will be decided after today's morning skate. Bertuzzi said he was happy to be back with the team after sitting out the last 14 games because of a concussion.
"I'm just going out and playing hockey," he said. "I'm going to finish my hits and do the same stuff."
Schneider said he was good to go after sitting out two games because of a sore hip flexor.
at Dallas, 5:30 PST, Ch. 56
Site -- American Airlines Center.
Radio -- 830.
Records -- Ducks 10-8-3, Stars 9-7-4.
Record vs. Stars -- 0-2-0.
Update -- Center Samuel Pahlsson missed practice to be with his wife, Johanna, who delivered a girl, the couple's first child. Pahlsson is expected to rejoin the team today.