Luca Sbisa signed to four-year deal

Updated: March 8, 2011, 5:47 PM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

The Anaheim Ducks have signed defenseman Luca Sbisa to a four-year extension.

The new deal, worth $8.7 million, will pay him $1.2 million next season; $2 million in 2012-13; $2.6 million in 2013-14; and $2.9 million in 2014-15.

"We are pleased to be able to reach an agreement with Luca on a long-term contract," Ducks general manager Bob Murray said in a statement. "He has a bright future ahead of him and we look forward to watching him continue to develop."

Sbisa, 21, has become a dependable, hard-hitting NHL defenseman over the past four months. After a rough training camp and a stint in the minors, the Ducks believe he has finally matured into the player they expected after acquiring him in a deal for former league MVP Chris Pronger.

"I worked really hard for this contract," Sbisa said Tuesday after practice at Honda Center. "I like the stability. I know where I'm going to be, and I know I can just focus on hockey."

Sbisa has two goals and six assists in 52 games for the Ducks, averaging nearly 16½ minutes per game. He's also among the Ducks' most physical defensemen, ranking second on the club with 131 hits.

"We're seeing a young player starting to mature into an everyday NHL player, and we think there's a lot more he can grow into," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said.

Sbisa credits his rapid development to his early start in the North American game. He started junior hockey in western Canada at 17, and joined the Philadelphia Flyers a year later after they drafted him in the first round in 2008.

He even played in one playoff game for Philadelphia, becoming the second-youngest player to appear in a postseason game for the Flyers, but he spent most of last season back in junior hockey and with the Swiss national team after the trade to Anaheim.

But he struggled last fall in his second training camp with the Ducks, who sent him to the AHL's Syracuse Crunch for a month.

"It was the right decision," Sbisa said. "I didn't want to leave at the time, but I needed to play a lot of minutes, take a lot of responsibility. It was also just about going out and having fun, and since I've been back up, I've tried to do the same thing."

Carlyle believes Sbisa's month in the AHL cleared his head after a horrible training camp.

"We thought he was going to get hurt out there," Carlyle said of Sbisa's camp effort. "But then he dominated games down there [in the AHL]. Numerous people told us he was too good for the AHL."

Sbisa was born in Sardinia, but his family moved to central Switzerland a few months later. He captained the Swiss world juniors team before playing alongside Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller at the Vancouver Olympics last year.

Sbisa thinks he has played the best hockey of his life over the past month, highlighted by a stellar effort in a thrilling 7-6 loss to Washington in mid-February. After Murray initiated talks about a long-term deal, Sbisa's agent flew in from Europe to hammer it out.

"They want to commit to me, and that just gave me a big confidence boost," Sbisa said.

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.