PHILADELPHIA - Mike Richards can say something no other NHLer can - he's under contract for almost as long as Rick DiPietro.
The 22-year-old forward signed a US$69-million, 12-year contract extension with the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.
Richards will earn an average of $5.75 million per year and be under contract through the 2019-20 season. That's only one year short of DiPietro, the New York Islanders goaltender who is in the second year of a landmark 15-year contract.
"I want to be here, I love the city, I love the organization and when I was given the opportunity I was excited to be here over the next twelve years," said Richards.
The deal will pay Richards $5.4 million in 2008-09, and he'll earn a raise each season until 2012-13, when he'll make $8.4 million. Richards' salary will then decrease each subsequent season, down to just $3 million in the final year of the deal.
"It is a unique contract for a unique player," said Pat Morris, the agent that represents Richards. "I don't think that it will set off a trend for other players by any means."
Richards is currently in the final season of his entry-level deal and is earning just over US$940,000. The extension kicks in next year.
"Ed Snider and Paul Holmgren have given me the chance that I wanted to be here, to be part of the organization," said Richards. "I talked to a couple guys and all the consensus is that this is a first class organization, nobody treats you better.
"The city, the fans, nobody treats you better anywhere else, that was encouraging and from there it just got me excited."
The native of Kenora, Ont., is off to the best start of his career. He has 14 goals and 34 points in 28 games.
In 166 career games, Richards has 35 goals and 100 points.