Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – Buffalo Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams has said all along that his plan is to develop and then pay his own players, not getting into the unrestricted free agent market in July.
Adams held true to his word on Tuesday, as the Sabres announced a seven-year contract extension for center Tage Thompson worth $50 million beginning in the 2023-24 season.
Thompson has one more year left on his old contract, which will pay him $1.6 million this upcoming season.
Thompson entered last season with a career-high eight goals in a season. However, he was Buffalo’s leading scorer during the 2021-22 season with 38 goals and 30 assists for 68 points in 78 games. Of the players in the NHL that scored 40 goals last season - only one of the 16 in total - Elias Lindholm of the Calgary Flames made less than $6 million.
This is the same contract Kyle Connor signed with the Winnipeg Jets back in 2019 after netting 34 goals and 32 assists for 66 points. That was Connor’s second 30-goal season, but he is a winger.
"Tage Thompson embodies the pride we expect from every player who wears the Buffalo Sabres sweater," said Adams in a statement on the team's website. "His success last season is a testament to his unrelenting dedication to his craft and commitment to bettering the team both on and off the ice, which we believe will help us reach even greater heights moving forward. We are thrilled to extend Tage, keeping him and his family in Buffalo for many years to come."
Back on May 1, the 24-year-old and his teammates cleaned out there lockers after another season without the playoffs. Despite that, Thompson gave a lot of credit to head coach Don Granato for his big season.
“It was important that it happened now, and I feel like it’s something that goes back to before the season," said Thompson during his end-of-season press conference. "'Donny' and I had a lot of talks about my outlook for my long-term future, and we both felt I was going to be a good player in the league. His biggest thing was it’s got to happen now.
“That was something I took to heart, because I wanted to be a difference maker for our team, and he gave me a lot of opportunity. It was up to me to take advantage of that.”
Thompson also said that day that he feels he can be even better than the numbers he put up last year.
The 6-foot-7, 219-pound forward came to Buffalo on July 1, 2018 as part of the Ryan O’Reilly trade with the St. Louis Blues. Thompson has grown a fondness for Western New York, and said back in May this is a place he wants to for a very long time.
"I want to be a guy that helps this team win and make the playoffs, and win a Stanley Cup," he said. "Obviously those are all just words, and you've got to put that into action.
"I'm excited to be a guy that's a Buffalo Sabre, and I think we've got a lot of guys in the room that feel the same way about our team as I do. It’s exciting and fun to be a part of."
Much has been made of the culture that Granato and Adams have created in a very short period of time.
“There’s no clicks, and everyone hangs out with everyone. I think that’s important, and it’s going to make coming into next season more exciting," Thompson said of the culture. "Everyone looks forward to getting back here and getting the season back going again.”
As far as this season goes, the only player left to sign is restricted free agent goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.
Once the Sabres Prospects Challenge ends on Sept. 19, the team will report to training camp later that week.