The standout center gets $50 million for seven years, however, did the team make a mistake similar to the Jeff Skinner contract?
BUFFALO, N.Y. (8-30-2022) - Tage Thompson's transition to center didn't just help the Buffalo Sabres surprise a lot of people in the 2021-22 season but also ensured him a long-term stay with the team.
On Tuesday the Sabres announced they had signed the 24-year-old to a seven-year contract worth $50 million, keeping him through the 2028-29 season. His salary ranks second behind winger Jeff Skinner with $7.1 million. This comes after Thompson led the team with 68 points while averaging 17:53 of ice time across 78 games.
"Tage Thompson embodies the pride we expect from every player who wears the Buffalo Sabres sweater," general manager Kevyn Adams said in a news release. "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."
Thompson, a 2016 first-round pick of the St. Louis Blues, was acquired by the Sabres in the Ryan O' Reilly trade in July 2018. Since then he has grown found of the city and wants to be part of a potential Stanley Cup run.
"This is a place I want to be at for a very long time," Thompson said in his end-of-season availability. "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."
However, Thompson's deal could prove déjà vu for the Sabres. In 2019, the team extended Skinner to an eight-year contract worth $72 million, after he scored 40 goals in his first year with the team. Since then, Skinner struggled to live up to that deal after only scoring a total of 16 goals the next two seasons, falling to the fourth line and even becoming a healthy scratch on numerous occasions.
But Skinner's struggles stemmed from then head coach Ralph Kruger placing him on different lines and not giving him a lot of playing time with then team captain Jack Eichel who contributed to his 40-goal season. Since the team named Don Granato as head coach, Skinner had a resurgence, scoring 33 goals in 2021. Part of that was because of the lineup with him, Thompson and Alex Tuch who the Sabres acquired in November 2021.
Thompson's transition to center allowed him to use both his 6-foot-7 frame to power through defenders and his right-handed shot to make huge goals. The acquisition of Tuch also contributed to Thompson's hot streak of 21 goals after the All-Star break which tied for fifth in the NHL.
How Thompson pans out after this deal will be one of the biggest stories for the Sabres this season. However, he feels that with Granato's coaching and chemistry with Skinner and Tuch, Buffalo will be the place where he reaches his full potential.
"I feel like I've always known that my potential's there and that I could eventually reach it," Thompson said.