Updated: Sep 1
Despite it being a dead period for the NHL, there are still some key signings going on around the league. One of them is Buffalo Sabres, who finished 5th in the Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference with a 32-39 win-loss record and signed 24-year-old forward Tage Thompson to a seven-year contract extension worth up to $50 million, the team announced on Tuesday, according to Jourdon LaBarber https://www.nhl.com/sabres/news/buffalo-sabres-sign-forward-tage-thompson-seven-year-contract-extension/c-335423028. The contract will not kick in until the start of the 2023-24 season.
Thompson is coming off a career year after a move to the center position in 2021-22 that saw him lead the Sabres with 38 goals and 68 points in 78 games, which shattered his previous career highs. Sabres general manager, Kevyn Adams, had high praise for the former 26th overall pick back in 2016 by stating, "Tage Thompson embodies the pride we expect from every player who wears the Buffalo Sabres sweater, 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."
Adams is very complimentary of Thompson as a player for the future, and Thompson is someone who plans to stay for the long haul, saying, "This is a place I want to be at 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, and obviously, those are all just words and you've got to put that into action.”
Thompson continued, "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." He has played 104 games with the team since being acquired in a trade with the St.Louis Blues in July of 2018.
The Sabres ranked just 24th in points last season, according to https://www.lineups.com/nhl-team-rankings, and Thompson was a big reason why they didn’t rank closer to the bottom, even more so than they were, by tying for fifth in home goals last season with 25 and tying for eighth in the NHL last season with eight multi-goal games.
Thompson’s teammate and alternate captain, Kyle Okposo, had high praise for the young ascending Thompson when he said, "Tommer was the guy that, we saw it every day in practice, every day in practice, it was like, 'This guy is unbelievable. He's the best player on the ice.' And for whatever reason in the games, like he just didn't have the confidence or it just wasn't translating.
"And now you see it like we've seen it for years. And just the way that he makes moves, he protects the puck, his ability to make his linemates better — that's something that, if you're [a top-line center] like he was this year, that's a huge component to it. And he made his linemates better this year.
Although he did get a nice increase in money, Thompson is not going to settle, as he is hungry to accomplish more this season. He stated, "It gives me excitement and confidence moving forward for next season to go even higher, and it gives me the internal hunger to go out and do more, I don't think you ever want to be satisfied or comfortable with where you're at. The number adds fuel to the fire to continue to grow."
The Sabres have made a huge investment in the former first-round draft pick, who has yet to be named an All-Pro or All-Star at this juncture of his young career. Will Thompson be worth the gamble? Can he blossom into a star-level player who the Sabres believe he’ll become, and can he lead a franchise that has never won the Stanley Cup to the promised land one day?
It should be one hell of a ride to witness.