Casey Mittelstadt started unlocking his potential late last season. ©2021, Micheline Veluvolu

Sabres reward breakout stretch, re-sign Casey Mittelstadt to three-year contract

Early last season, Casey Mittelstadt toiled on the taxi squad and struggled to crack the Buffalo Sabres’ lineup as a winger. By the end of the year, however, he had morphed into the team’s No. 2 center.

The Sabres on Thursday rewarded Mittelstadt’s breakout stretch under new coach Don Granato, re-signing him to a three-year, $7.5 million contract.

Mittelstadt, 22, is the first key restricted free agent the Sabres have re-signed. Defensemen Rasmus Dahlin and Henri Jokiharju still need new deals.

Update: The Sabres have re-signed Jokiharju to three-year, $7.5 million contract.

Training camp is scheduled to begin later this month.

Right now, the Sabres have a projected salary cap hit of $55,397,763, which is $4,802,237 below the floor, according to capfriendly.com.

Mittelstadt will likely be the rebuilding Sabres’ top center this season. Captain Jack Eichel, who wants to be traded, is still recovering from a neck injury. The Sabres dealt center Sam Reinhart, their leading scorer, to the Florida Panthers on July 24.

Mittelstadt scored nine goals and 17 points over the final 22 games last season. Overall, he compiled 10 goals and 22 points in 41 games.

The 6-foot-1, 196-pound Mittelstadt struggled to reach expectations after the Sabres drafted him eighth overall in 2017. In 2019-20, his second full pro season, he started getting scratched before the Sabres sent him to the Rochester Americans.

While Mittelstadt enjoyed a strong camp last season and performed well in limited action, he mostly skated as a fourth-line winger. But he began unlocking his potential after Granato took over March 17.

Injuries and trades helped create new opportunities for Mittelstadt. Granato also kept him at center, his natural position, and awarded him consistent ice time.

Mittelstadt has compiled 27 goals and 61 points in 155 career NHL games.

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