Hockey

Sabres lock up goalie Ryan Miller

Goalie Ryan Miller, who was expected to be one of the most coveted free agents of next summer, has signed a five-year, $31.25-million US contract extension with the Buffalo Sabres.

Goalie Ryan Miller, who was expected to be one of the most coveted free agents of next summer, has signed a five-year contract extension with the Buffalo Sabres, the team announced Friday.

Miller, who turned 28 on Thursday, will make $31.25 million US over the course of the new deal. The extension kicks in after the 2008-09 season, when Miller will earn $3.5 million.

Miller appeared in a franchise-high 76 games last season, posting a record of 36-27-10 with a 2.64 goals-against average and .906 save percentage. The slightly built native of East Lansing, Mich., made 34 consecutive starts from January 24 to April 3 for the Sabres, who missed the Eastern Conference playoffs by four points.

"I wanted to commit to Buffalo based on who we have there and I feel like our team has accomplished a lot in the last three years," Miller said. "Last year, I just count that year as a hiccup. We're going to learn and be motivated."

A fifth-round pick by Buffalo in the 1999 draft, the Michigan State University product has appeared in 205 regular season games, compiling a record of 112-68-19 with a 2.69 GAA and .908 save percentage.

Pominville next?

Miller was voted to start the all-star game during the 2006-07 season, when he set a Sabres record with 40 wins and backstopped the team to its first Presidents' Trophy.

"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."

Extending Miller had been a top priority for Regier, who was widely criticized last summer for allowing co-captains Daniel Brière and Chris Drury to leave as free agents to, respectively, Philadelphia and the New York Rangers.

"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."

Regier can now turn his attention to locking up young forward Jason Pominville, the team's second-leading scorer last season.

The 25-year-old winger notched 27 goals and a career-high 80 points in 2007-08, suggesting he was no fluke after registering 34 goals and 68 points the season before while playing on a line with the play-making Brière.

"It's a good start," Regier said. "Now we can focus on Jason."

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