MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens avoided arbitration with centre Lars Eller, agreeing to terms of a four-year contract with the 25-year-old Thursday that reportedly pays him an average of US$3.5 million a season.
"Now it’s up to me to go out and play the best hockey I can," he said by phone from the airport in Toronto, where he was waiting to catch a flight home to Denmark.
"This (Montreal) was the place I want to be. Four years was a term that both sides have been working on for quite some time."
Eller was scheduled to have an arbitration hearing on Friday. He reportedly asked for $3.1 million for next season while the team offered $1.65 million.
"Going to arbitration was really a last resort if all other options failed," he said.
"We are very pleased to have agreed upon a long term agreement with Lars Eller," general manager Marc Bergevin said in a statement. "He is an important part of our group of young veterans.
"He has a tremendous work ethic and a great attitude. He is the type of player you can rely on for his play at both ends of the rink. Lars can play big minutes against the opponents’ top players and still be an offensive threat. We are confident he will reach his full potential and become an impact player who will compete at a high level for many years to come."
Eller made up for disappointing regular season production — 12 goals and 14 assists in 77 games — with a strong playoff performance. He had five goals and eight assists in 17 games as the Canadiens advanced to the NHL Eastern Conference final, averaging 15:57 of ice time per game and leading Montreal forwards in hits with 130.
But he said the team was basing its decision on more than the playoffs.
"Of course it’s been a very mixed season for me performance wise. Certainly my playoffs probably helped my situation, there’s no doubt about that. But this goes longer than just one playoff. I’ve been here for four years now…
"They know what they have in me and I know what I have in them."
The six-foot-two 215-pound Eller has 45 goals and 103 points in 286 career NHL games. He was drafted 13th overall by St. Louis in 2007 and was acquired by Montreal on June 17, 2010, along with Ian Schultz, for goalie Jaroslav Halak.
He says his game could use work in all areas but he really wants to focus on consistency.
Next up for Montreal is star defenceman P.K. Subban, who is scheduled for arbitration on Aug. 1.