Buffalo drafted Rasmus Dahlin first overall in 2018. ©2021, Micheline Veluvolu

Sabres’ Rasmus Dahlin has contract, chance to thrive under Don Granato

Over the final weeks last season, defenseman Rasmus Dahlin shook off a ghastly three-month slump, morphing into the Buffalo Sabres’ most dynamic presence some games.

Dahlin, 21, started playing confidently again, showcasing a calmer, more composed style while utilizing his speed and embracing the physical side.

His transformation under new coach Don Granato illustrated that despite some struggles, he possesses the talent to develop into one of the NHL’s premier defensemen.

In the near future, Dahlin’s new contract could be a bargain. On Wednesday, as training camps opened around the league, the Sabres agreed to terms with the Swede on a three-year, $18 million deal.

Dahlin was the Sabres’ last restricted free agent. His $6 million average annual value is the highest among their defensemen. The contract pushed the Sabres over the NHL’s salary floor, according to capfriendly.com.

He will receive a $3 million base salary this season and a $2 million signing bonus, a $5.8 million base salary in 2022-23 and a $7.2 million base salary in 2023-24, according to capfriendly.com.

General manager Kevyn Adams had said the Sabres were open to awarding Dahlin a long- or short-term contract. Ultimately, they decided on a bridge deal.

Dahlin, the first overall pick in 2018, will be a restricted free agent when his contract expires. The Sabres also gave three-year deals to two of their other young core players: defenseman Henri Jokiharju and center Casey Mittelstadt.

Having traded Rasmus Ristolainen and lost Jake McCabe in free agency, the rebuilding Sabres will rely heavily on Dahlin this season.

Early last season, Dahlin often looked overwhelmed defensively, and his regression contributed to the Sabres’ stunning 18-game winless streak.

He compiled an awful minus-27 rating in 28 games before the Sabres fired coach Ralph Krueger. In 28 outings under Granato, Dahlin was a minus-9.

Overall last season, Dahlin recorded five goals, 23 points and a league-worst minus-36 rating. No one else in the league had a rating lower than minus-30.

Dahlin has compiled 18 goals, 89 points, 107 points and a minus-56 rating in 197 games over his three-year career.

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