BUFFALO, N.Y. - In the span of three years, forward Jason Pominville went from being the player no one wanted to the one the Buffalo Sabres couldn't do without.
Entering the final year of his contract, Pominville was rewarded by the Sabres on Thursday with a US$26.5-million, five-year contract extension.
Pominville has grown into a leader and finished second on the Sabres with a career-best 80 points (27 goals, 53 assists) last season.
The new deal, reached a day before the Sabres were slated to report for the start of training camp, keeps Pominville under contract through the 2013-14 season.
He will make $4.5 million in the 2009-10 season and $5.5 million in the final four years of the contract, representing a significant raise over the $1.375 million he will earn this season.
"He brings a lot of qualities," Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said of Pominville, who plays the power play and kills penalties. "He has a uniqueness to him. ... You wouldn't point to any particular outstanding attribute all by itself. But when you put him together he is a very, very good player."
The move comes after the Sabres identified Pominville last spring as one of two core players they were intent on securing with long-term deals this off-season. The other was goaltender Ryan Miller, who signed a $31.25-million, five-year extension in July.
Pominville wasn't always considered indispensable in Buffalo. The Sabres placed Pominville on waivers before the 2005-06 season. No team claimed him, allowing Buffalo to demote him to the minors. Pominville rejoined the Sabres a few months later and finished the season with 18 goals and 12 assists in 57 games.
In the playoffs that spring, he scored the series-clinching goal in overtime in Game 5 of Buffalo's Eastern Conference semifinal series against Ottawa.
"I hope he's forgiven me for having waived him," Regier said with a laugh. "I laughed at it because, in part, I got lucky. Once in a while you need to get lucky."
Pominville hasn't forgotten what happened, and said the demotion actually spurred him to become a better player.
"Obviously, it was a disappointing time," he said. "It turned out to work out fine. I wouldn't change anything."
Buffalo's second-round pick in the 2001 draft, Pominville has 79 goals and 99 assists for 178 points in 222 career games over three full seasons. He was a finalist for the NHL's Lady Byng Trophy last season for sportsmanship and gentlemanly play after registering just 20 penalty minutes.
Pominville closed the season as the Sabres captain as part of coach Lindy Ruff's monthly rotation. He also represented the U.S., in the IIHF world hockey championship last spring, finishing with two goals and three assists in seven games.
Both sides established a deadline before the start of training camp to get a deal completed or suspend negotiations in part because Pominville didn't want his contract to be a distraction during the season. Though the Sabres would have held matching rights next summer, the possibility loomed that other teams could have made him lucrative offers.