Ottawa signs Karlsson to seven-year, $45.5 million deal

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On Wednesday night, Erik Karlsson will commemorate his breakout campaign by appearing at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas as one of the three Norris Trophy nominees.

But tonight? Tonight he’s going to celebrate.

That’s because the 22-year-old defenseman has signed a massive seven-year, $45.5 million deal with the Ottawa Senators. The contract will keep Karlsson in the Canadian capital until 2019, matching the longest contract in franchise history (Jason Spezza signed a seven-year deal back in 2007.)

The average annual value of $6.5 million is a huge raise for Karlsson, who was earning $1.3 million annually on his last contract (which, to be fair, was his entry-level deal.)

While steep, it’s a price the Senators had to pay to retain the services of last year’s most outstanding offensive defenseman. Karlsson scored 78 points in 81 games, finishing 25 clear of the next leading defenseman scorers (Brian Campbell and Dustin Byfuglien each had 53.)

His 59 assists tied him for third with Evgeni Malkin overall — only Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin and Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux had more.

In terms of cap hit, Karlsson’s $6.5 million puts him in rarefied air among blueliners. Only Campbell ($7.14 million), Drew Doughty ($7.0), Zdeno Chara ($6.9) Jay Bouwmeester ($6.7) and Dan Boyle ($6.6) are more expensive. Dion Phaneuf’s annual cap hit is also $6.5 million.