Forward Zemgus Girgensons, the Buffalo Sabres’ longest-tenured player, will be returning for an 11th season.
The Sabres on Tuesday signed Girgensons to a one-year, $2.5 million contract. He could’ve become an unrestricted free agent July 1.
Girgensons, 29, is the last remaining player from the Sabres’ “tank” teams of 2013-14 and 2014-15.
The Latvian has endured some rough seasons in Buffalo. The Sabres have finished dead last four times during his tenure and never cracked the playoffs.
Still, following years of futility, he feels something special building with the Sabres, who missed the postseason by two points in 2022-23.
As the Sabres held end-of-season meetings April 15 following their 91-point finish, he said he wanted to return.
“With what the team has here and the steps it’s taken, I definitely would like to be a part of this,” he said.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Girgensons, an alternate captain, has emerged as one Buffalo’s leaders under the regime of general manager Kevyn Adams and coach Don Granato.
His aggressive, straight-ahead style has entrenched him on the third or fourth line and on a top penalty-killing unit.
Girgensons, who plays center and the wing, has compiled 81 goals and 174 points in 625 career NHL games. He registered 10 goals and 18 points in 80 outings in 2022-23.
The Sabres drafted him 14th overall in 2012.
Having also re-signed captain Kyle Okposo last month, the Sabres have 12 forwards who finished the season in Buffalo under contract for 2023-24. Their only upcoming unrestricted free agents played with the Rochester Americans.
If the Sabres expect any of their young forwards to graduate from the AHL to Buffalo, they might pass on giving Tyson Jost, who can become a restricted free agent, a qualifying offer.