Sabres reward Thompson with 7-year, $50 million contract

Sports

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Buffalo Sabres center Tage Thompson cashed in on a breakout season by agreeing to a seven-year, $50 million contract extension on Tuesday.

Thompson gets a hefty raise from his current three-year, $4.2 million contract, which runs out after this season. The new deal represents the faith the Sabres have in the 24-year-old, who’s coming off a team-leading 38-goal season.

Thompson had 68 points in 78 games last season as he nearly doubled his goal and point totals from his first four NHL seasons combined.

“His success last season is a testament to his unrelenting dedication to his craft and commitment to bettering the team both on and of the ice, which we believe will help us reach even greater heights moving forward,” general manager Kevyn Adams said in a statement.

Thompson’s emergence as a top-line forward coincided with Don Granato’s promotion to coach following Ralph Krueger being fired in March of 2021. Granato provided Thompson more playing time from the start, and Thompson shifted from wing to his more natural position, center, to open last season.

Thompson’s 38 goals ranked 19th in the league, and he finished tied for eighth with eight multi-goal games, including his first career hat trick on Feb. 19.

Granato had previous ties with Thompson, having coached him at USA Hockey’s national development program.

Before Granato, the 6-foot-7 Thompson was regarded as more of an afterthought as he bounced between the Sabres and the minors while also missing time with a shoulder injury.

“I feel like I’ve always known that my potential’s there and that I could eventually reach it,” Thompson said in November, crediting Granato’s influence. “He just, coming into the season, challenged me to go and reach it now.”

From Arizona, he was selected in the first round of the 2016 draft by St. Louis, and traded to Buffalo in a deal that sent Ryan O’Reilly to the Blues in July 2018.

Thompson represents a key piece of a Sabres team being rebuilt around youth. Buffalo showed signs of being competitive at the end of last season despite missing the playoffs for an NHL-record 11th consecutive year.

The team’s core of up-and-coming stars includes defensemen Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power, both No. 1 draft picks, as well forwards Dylan Cozens, Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs. Tuch and Krebs were acquired in a trade that sent former captain Jack Eichel to Vegas in November.

“This is a place I want to be at for a very long time,” Thompson said after the season. “I want to be a guy that helps this team win and make the playoffs and win a Stanley Cup, and obviously those are all just words and you’ve got to put that into action.”

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