BUFFALO — On Sunday, Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers receives his enormous $10 million signing bonus, the first payment in the seven-year, $38.5 million extension he signed last year.
The money’s another symbol the youngster, who could’ve made a bundle more later on if he had re-upped for a shorter deal, ranks as one of the NHL’s great young defenders.
Two years ago, in fact, Myers, fresh off a dynamic rookie season, was arguably the best.
Not today, however.
Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty, picked second overall in 2008, 10 spots before Myers, just won the Stanley Cup. Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson, nabbed 15th, won the Norris Trophy last week. St. Louis’ Alex Pietrangelo, grabbed fourth, had 51 points last season.
Following two wildly inconsistent seasons, Myers has been overtaken.
In 2010-11, the pressure to duplicate his rookie season overwhelmed Myers, who started so wretchedly he sported minus-15 rating at one point. By late winter, though, he was a force again.
Last season, with that awful October fresh in his mind, he over-focused on defense beside new partner Robyn Regehr, lost his aggressiveness and became a non-factor offensively.
When the duo was broken up, Myers played himself out of the lineup for a game. He roared back from the benching, and then broke his wrist. He played well later, although not at his freshman level.
Now, entering his fourth season, the franchise defenseman has one great season and two decent ones under his belt. There’s the new contract and additional pressure of leading the Sabres back to the playoffs.
Can he become one of the game’s best again?
Here’s a full look at the team’s defensemen heading into the summer.
Contract: $5.5 million cap hit, seven years remaining
2011-12 statistics: 55 games, eight goals, 23 points, plus-5, 22:29 average ice time