FILE - In this Jan. 4, 2018, file photo, Pittsburgh Penguins’ Patric Hornqvist prepares for a face-off during an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Panthers, in Pittsburgh. The Penguins weren’t about to let Hornqvist get away. The two-time defending Stanley Cup champions signed the 31-year-old forward to a five-year extension Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, that runs through the 2022-23 season. The deal has an average annual value of $5.3 million. He was set to become a free agent this summer but didn’t hesitate on an extension once he was approached by general manager Jim Rutherford, who rarely makes such a move in the middle of the year. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

Penguins sign forward Patric Hornqvist to 5-year extension

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins weren’t about to let Patric Hornqvist get away.

The two-time defending Stanley Cup champions signed the 31-year-old forward to a five-year extension Tuesday that runs through the 2022-23 season. The deal has an average annual value of $5.3 million.

He was set to become a free agent this summer but didn’t hesitate on an extension once he was approached by general manager Jim Rutherford, who rarely makes such a move in the middle of the year.

“This is the city I want to be in and I’m really happy to stay here five more years,” Hornqvist said. “We always have a chance to win and we have a great core group in here, so that was obviously the key situation for me, too.”

Hornqvist has been a vital part of Pittsburgh’s title runs. He scored the series-clinching goal in Game 6 of the 2017 Stanley Cup finals against Nashville.

“He’s been such a big part of this team and what it’s been able to accomplish the last couple seasons,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “He brings so much energy and he’s a positive guy. He brings a dimension to our dressing room that is unique.”

To the ice as well.

Hornqvist plays a physical game, often putting his body in front of the net to grab loose pucks or create room for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. Hornqvist has 17 goals and 15 assists for the Penguins this season entering Tuesday night’s game against New Jersey. He was acquired in a 2014 trade with the Predators and has 85 goals and 93 assists with the Penguins.

Hornqvist said he’s glad the process is over so he can focus on hockey. The Penguins began Tuesday in third place in the tight Metropolitan Division. The signing also means a core that includes Hornqvist, Crosby and Malkin is under contract well into the next decade.

“I think we have something great here,” Hornqvist said. “Just have to go out here and prove it.”

NOTES: Center Derick Brassard, acquired in a deal with Ottawa last week, skated with the team Tuesday morning and is scheduled to play against the Devils. … goalie Matt Murray is out indefinitely with a concussion after taking a puck to the helmet in practice Monday.

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