As has already been reported, Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman didn't waste any time re-signing franchise defenseman Victor Hedman on the first day he was eligible to sign a contract extension. With this extension, Yzerman has locked up the franchise defenseman and a crucial piece to the core of this team. And he's done it with an affordable deal with a reported $7.875 million per year. He's certainly hit a home run as Hedman is likely worth more money than what he signed for.
Hedman was the 2nd overall pick by the Lightning in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Through his first four years in Tampa, he ranged from 20-26 points while averaging 21:44 in time on ice. During the 2012-13 lockout, he played in the Russian KHL for 26 games where he had 22 points. That experience likely served as a turning point for Hedman when he returned to the Lightning as he broke the 0.4 point per game mark for the first time with 20 points in 44 games. It was also during the 2012-13 season that he broke through the mystic 300 games played mark.
It is often said that for defensemen, it takes 300 games played in the NHL for them to learn the game. After that 300 games played mark in 2013, you can see the improvement in Hedman's game as he became the franchise defenseman that was envisioned when he was drafted. Since the 2013-14 season, Hedman has 140 points in 212 games played for 0.66 points per game while averaging 22:44 time on ice. He finished the 2015-16 season with 47 points in 78 games. That point total represents his second highest in his career.
While he has not won a Norris Trophy yet, it's clear that Victor Hedman is one of the best all around defensemen in the league. True number one defensemen are extremely hard to find and Steve Yzerman has locked his up for the next nine seasons, counting the one season still left from his previous deal before the contract extension starts. Hedman likely would have commanded more next summer on the free agent market, particularly if he has a Norris caliber season in 2016-17. So why didn't he move on?
At the Bolts Family Carnival this season, I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Hedman for a few minutes. I had my MODO Hockey jersey ready for him to sign and his face lit up when he saw the jersey. He started talking to me about his brothers. He has two older brothers, Johan plays minor-professional hockey in Sweden and the other, Oscar, is currently with MODO Hockey. All of them wear number 41. He said when he started with MODO Hockey, he bumped older brother Oscar from the number and took it for himself. Oscar is back to wearing 41 now with MODO Hockey. Victor though could not take 41 when he came to the Lightning because of goaltender Mike Smith and that's how he ended up wearing 77.
MODO Hockey is based in the small town of Örnsköldsvik, Sweden and has a proud tradition. Örnsköldsvik has a population of less than 30,000 people. To put that in perspective with some central Florida cities, Brandon and Lakeland both have populations of 100,000 people. Temple Terrace and Tarpon Springs have around 25,000 people and Winter Haven has around 33,000 people.
And yet, Örnsköldsvik despite being so small has put a lot of very good hockey players into the NHL. It's produced the likes of Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund, Niklas Sundstrom, Anders Hedberg, and of course Victor Hedman. For Hedman, it was common to see most of those players around town. His father works part time for MODO. The older players would help out at practices for younger players. Each of those players came up playing junior hockey and eventually pro hockey for MODO. Most of them either came back to play for MODO during a lockout or later in their careers after having stellar NHL careers.
For Hedman, loyalty is something he learned in his hometown. He saw it from what those players did for their home and the next generation of players. So it's no surprise to see him sign a deal that wasn't for the most money so that he could stay where he was drafted, where he loves living, where he can love winning, and where he can hopefully finish his NHL career.