Buffalo Sabres\' Tyler Myers talks with reporters during an NHL hockey news conference in Buffalo, N.Y., Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011. The Sabres re-signed Myers to a 7-year deal. (AP Photo/David Duprey)
BUFFALO, N.Y. - Two years ago, defenceman Tyler Myers was a fresh-faced 19-year-old unsure if he was even going to make the Buffalo Sabres season-opening roster.
On Thursday, Myers' future in Buffalo was secured through the 2019-2020 season after he signed a US$38.5 million, seven-year contract extension.
"I'm very excited today to solidify a long-term spot and be a part of this organization as it grows," Myers said. "It's somewhere I want to be for the rest of my career. And I'm still young."
Convinced that Myers, the NHL's 2009 rookie of the year, has the potential to be one of the league's elite defenceman, the Sabres wasted no time in locking up the player a year before his three-year rookie contract expired.
"We wanted to recognize Tyler not only for his abilities now, but his abilities in the future," said general manager Darcy Regier, who opened talks only two weeks ago. "It has been nothing short of a terrific start to what I think will be an outstanding career."
Myers will make $12 million in 2011-12, $6 million in 2012-13, $5 million in 2014 and 2015, $4 million in 2016-17, $3.5 million in 2017-18 and $3 million in 2018-19.
At six-foot-eight, Myers is the NHL's second tallest player behind Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. And in two seasons, the Sabres' 2008 first-round draft pick has shown he has a fluid-skating style that belies his size, while also possessing an offensive knack.
Myers has 21 goals and 64 assists for 85 points in 162 career games. Though he struggled both on offence and defence in opening his sophomore season last year, Myers bounced back to lead Buffalo defencemen with 37 points (10 goals, 27 assists) and finish with a respectable zero plus-minus rating.
Myers acknowledged there's many things he can improve upon, while adding the new contract allows him the opportunity develop into a team leader.
"I wanted to do that before we even started negotiating this contract," Myers said. And he'll have a mentor, playing alongside newly acquired defenceman veteran Robyn Regehr, who Myers idolized while growing up in Calgary.
Myers' deal was reached a day before Sabres players report for the start of training camp. And it's the latest aggressive move made by what's become a free-spending franchise since Terry Pegula purchased the Sabres in February.
Buffalo has already made several splashes this off-season to improve a team that finished seventh in the Eastern Conference and was bounced in the first-round of the playoffs by Philadelphia in a seven-game series.
The team traded for the rights to defenceman Christian Ehrhoff and then signed him to a $40 million, ten-year contract a day before the start of free agency. The Sabres then opened free agency by signing dependable two-way forward Ville Leino to a $27 million, six-year contract.
And don't forget the draft-weekend trade with Calgary, in which the Sabres acquired Regehr and forward Ales Kotalik.
Those moves contributed to putting the Sabres' payroll about $3 million over the NHL salary cap, which is allowed during the off-season. That leaves the team until the start of the season next month to make moves to get below the cap.
Regier said it's his intention to open cap space by making trades, and has already had discussions to determine what options might be available.
Pegula has made no secret of his desire to win a Stanley Cup as soon as possible, and is more than willing to open his pocketbook to reach that objective.
"I think it tells the guys that we mean business," Pegula said of the string of off-season moves. "We had some things we needed to address, and we have a timeline. So why wait two years to do it, or three? We've tried to take care of immediate needs early."
Pegula's influence is apparent to Myers.
"As teammates, it's in our discussions daily, how excited we are with what's happening in Buffalo," Myers said. "It's amazing and motivating."
Notes: Regier ruled out the chance of opening contract talks this fall with forward Tyler Ennis, who enters the final season of his rookie three-year contract. ... Extensive renovations of the Sabres player area at their newly renamed First Niagara Center won't be completed for another three weeks, meaning Buffalo will use an auxiliary locker-room for its two home pre-season games. ... The Sabres open the regular season with two games in Europe before returning for their home-opener against Carolina on Oct. 14.