At the last possible second, the Arizona Coyotes found common ground with one of their top young forwards, locking him in for the remainder of his prime.
As both sides were entering the room to meet before an arbitrator on Monday morning, the Coyotes and Lawson Crouse agreed to terms on a five-year contract extension worth an average annual value of $4.3 million.
The deal, which now ties Crouse to Arizona through the 2026-27 season, will pay the forward $3.6 million in actual salary for this coming season before expanding to $4.6 million in years two and three, then $4.8 million in year four, before finally going back down to $3.8 million in year five.
This is quite the commitment for the Coyotes to make for Crouse, who did not have a true breakout season until 2021-22.
The former 11th overall pick in the 2015 draft struggled mightily to make an impact at the NHL level in his first five seasons in the league, entering last season with career-highs of just 15 goals and 25 points. But Crouse finally found his footing in year six, racking up an impressive 20 goals on a moribund Coyotes team while also chipping in 14 assists for 34 points in 65 games, scoring at his best personal pace by a wide margin and offering the organization some hope as to the power forward he could turn out to be.
The Coyotes, who are desperate to retain any semblance of talent, are banking on Crouse delivering on that hope for the next half-decade. As the team embarks upon a truly bizarre season in 2022-23, they'll at least do so with a promising young player in their ranks.