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Key defenseman set to sign contract extension with Knights

Updated July 26, 2021 - 7:56 pm

Alec Martinez celebrated his 34th birthday Monday with a new contract.

The defenseman agreed to terms on a three-year extension with the Golden Knights and avoided free agency, a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed.

The deal, which was first reported by DailyFaceoff.com, carries a $5.25 million average annual value and is expected to become official Tuesday.

General manager Kelly McCrimmon declined to comment, and Martinez’s agent, Alexander Schall, also refused to comment.

“I can’t (over)state the importance of him to our group,” coach Pete DeBoer said of Martinez in June after the Knights were bounced from the Stanley Cup semifinals by Montreal in six games.

“There’s a reason he’s a multiple Stanley Cup winner. There’s a reason you can count on him at the most important time of the year. He rises to the occasion at the tough moments. You can never have enough guys like that.”

Martinez was in line for a raise after leading the NHL in blocked shots during the regular season with 168, 40 more than the next-closest player. He posted 32 points (nine goals, 23 assists) in 53 games playing on the top pair with Alex Pietrangelo, and Martinez’s 0.60 points per game were the highest of his 11-year career.

Martinez tied for second on the team with a plus-26 rating and was second on the team in average ice time at 22:34.

During the postseason, Martinez played through a broken foot and posted a stunning 10.08 blocked shots per 60 minutes. He led the league with 72 blocks in 19 games as the Knights fell one step short of playing for the Stanley Cup.

Since he was acquired from Los Angeles on Feb. 19, 2020, for two second-round picks, Martinez has provided a veteran presence on the blue line. In 63 regular-season games, he has 40 points in 63 games, and the Knights are plus-22 with him on the ice at five-on-five.

Martinez would have been one of the top left defensemen in free agency and might have commanded more money on the open market.

With the two-time Stanley Cup winner back in the fold, the Knights are set to return their top six defensemen after allowing a league-best 2.18 goals per game.

“I obviously want to (return),” Martinez said in April. “It’s obviously a really good team. It’s a great group of guys. I love playing here.”

Before signing Martinez, the Knights were projected to have $5.2 million in salary cap space by CapFriendly.com with 19 players on the roster. PuckPedia.com shows $4.35 million remaining with a 20-player roster.

Newly acquired center Nolan Patrick and defenseman Dylan Coghlan are restricted free agents and in line for new contracts, which means the Knights aren’t done making moves.

There continue to be rumblings around the league that Vezina Trophy winner Marc-Andre Fleury or Robin Lehner could be traded to create salary cap space. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported a deal for one of the goalies might have fallen through during the draft last weekend.

Right wing Reilly Smith has surfaced as a potential trade chip. The alternate captain carries a $5 million salary cap hit entering the final year of his contract and is coming off a down season.

There also were whispers during the draft about the Knights moving left wing Max Pacioretty, the second straight offseason his name has come up in trade rumors. Forward Ryan Reaves ($1.75 million cap hit) and defenseman Nick Holden ($1.7 million cap hit) are other trade possibilities.

Meanwhile, the Knights were linked by Sportsnet to a potential deal for Rangers center Ryan Strome, who would be expendable if New York wins the sweepstakes for Buffalo star Jack Eichel.

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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