BUFFALO, N.Y. – After watching Chris Drury, Daniel Briere and Brian Campbell leave over the past year, the Buffalo Sabres were determined to keep Ryan Miller off the list of high profile departures.
The Sabres locked up their franchise goalie with a five-year, US$31.25-million extension on Friday, ending speculation that Miller might be gone after this season and the end of his contract. Miller, who just turned 28 on Thursday, will make $6.25 million each year through the 2013-14 season.
“He’s established himself as one of the top young goaltenders,” general manager Darcy Regier said. “When you’re talking about conference finals, playoff wins, what he’s done in the playoffs, what he’s done in his career … when you look at his history, it’s not about potential. This is a goaltender that we believe in.”
When former co-captains Drury and Briere bolted Buffalo last July as free agents, Miller – Buffalo’s fifth-round pick in 1999 – quickly become the team’s leader, both on and off the ice. And despite some early season struggles, the Michigan State product almost single-handedly willed the Sabres into the playoffs after Buffalo shipped two-time all-star defenceman Campbell to San Jose at the trade deadline in February.
Miller played in a franchise-high 76 games this past season, including a stretch of 34 straight starts. He posted a 36-27-10 record with a 2.64 goals-against average and notched a career-high three shutouts.
That came on the heels of leading the Sabres to a second straight appearance in the Eastern Conference finals in 2006-07, setting a franchise mark with 40 wins, and earning the start in goal for the Eastern Conference in the all-star game.
Signing Miller became a top priority for the team this off-season, especially after rumours Miller could eventually land in his native Michigan to play in Detroit when his contract was up. Miller, though, routinely denied those rumours.
“Our first conversation was on July 1, so it was done in a fairly short amount of time,” Regier said. “Ryan was very open to getting to work on it, so I think that makes a world of a difference.”
For his career, Miller boasts a 112-68-19 mark along with a 2.69 GAA and .908 save percentage.
With Miller’s deal complete, the Sabres can move forward trying to extend forward Jason Pominville’s contract. Pominville, who has steadily become a key cog on the team over the past two seasons, is due to become a restricted free agent after this season.
Pominville finished second on the team with a career-high 80 points while playing in all 82 games last season. The 25-year-old also established a career-high with 53 assists.
“It’s a good start,” Regier said. “Now we can focus on Jason.”