The Buffalo Sabres are bringing back one of their key depth players from the second half of the 2019-20 season.
The team announced on Thursday that it has signed center Curtis Lazar to a two-year contract extension worth an average annual value of $800,000.
Lazar was signed as an unrestricted free agent by the Sabres last offseason after spending parts of three seasons with the Calgary Flames organization. After nearly making the Sabres roster right out of training camp, he was assigned to the Rochester Americans in the American Hockey League, where he played very well with 14 points (6+8) in 18 games played.
In his first game with the Sabres on Nov. 14, Lazar scored a breakaway goal in the second period of a 5-4 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes at KeyBank Center. It was his first goal in the NHL since he scored with the Flames on Feb. 15, 2018. He went on to play a total of six games in November before being sent back down to Rochester.
After a brief return to the Amerks, Lazar was called back up to Buffalo in late December, where he became a permanent fixture in the team's bottom-six group of forwards. He became one of Buffalo's best players in the faceoff circle as the season went on, taking key draws on the penalty kill, power play, and in late-game situations and overtimes.
Overall, in 38 games played with the Sabres, Lazar ended up scoring five goals and picking up five assists for 10 points. He was on pace to score seven goals and pick up seven assists for 14 points in 51 games this year if the 2019-20 campaign had not been shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lazar ended up being named as the Sabres' nominee for the Bill Masteron Memorial Trophy at the end of the season by the Buffalo chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association for best exemplifying the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.
It is likely that Lazar will serve in a similar role that he did this past season when the 2020-21 campaign opens at some point in late December or January. Buffalo already has Jack Eichel as the team's top line center, while the team also added veteran center Eric Staal in a trade with the Minnesota Wild for forward Marcus Johansson.
“Curtis established himself as an important player for the organization last season and we’re excited to see him stay with the Sabres for the next two seasons," said Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams in a team statement. "His abilities as a player and character as a person make him a perfect fit for the Buffalo Sabres organization on and off the ice.”
Lazar was a former first round pick (17th overall) of the Ottawa Senators in the 2013 NHL Draft out of the Western Hockey League's Edmonton Oil Kings.
In his 284 career NHL games played with the Senators, Flames and Sabres, Lazar has scored 20 goals and registered 41 assists for 61 points.