Linus Ullmark showed he could handle a heavy workload. The Sabres have rewarded him.
Buffalo has signed the goaltender to a two-year deal worth $1.5 million. The 23-year-old was set to be a restricted free agent July 1.
“Linus has worked hard both on and off the ice, and his performance at both the NHL and AHL levels has reflected those efforts,” Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill said Tuesday. “He made great strides during his second season in North America, and we are eager to see him continue his development.”
Las Vegas could have a say in whether the Sabres watch Ullmark's development. Teams can protect only one goaltender in the upcoming expansion draft, and Buffalo also has No. 1 netminder Robin Lehner. The protection lists must be submitted Saturday, and the results of the expansion draft will be announced June 21.
Teams can work out deals with the Golden Knights to entice them not to select certain players. Former Buffalo GM Tim Murray had the framework of a deal in place with Vegas GM George McPhee, and Botterill has also had talks with McPhee.
Ullmark would be worth protecting. He was voted Most Valuable Player in Rochester this season. He led the American Hockey League in games played (55) and shots faced (1,678). While the Amerks struggled to a 32-41-3 record, Ullmark went 26-27-2 with a .909 save percentage.
Selected in the sixth round of the 2012 NHL Draft, Ullmark has appeared in 21 games for the Sabres during the past two seasons. He is 8-11-2 with a .913 save percentage.
The average annual salary of $750,000 appears to be a good deal for the Sabres. The final year of Ullmark's entry-level contract had an NHL salary of $892,500, according to CapFriendly.com.
UPDATE: CapFriendly reports Ullmark will receive $700,000 this season and $800,000 in 2018-19. The salary is the same whether the goalie is in Buffalo or Rochester, so the Sabres get a good price and Ullmark gets NHL security.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder had an award-winning career in his native Sweden before joining the Sabres in 2015-16. He was named best goaltender in the junior league in 2012-13. Ullmark followed that up with the Honken Trophy as the top goalie in Sweden's elite league in 2013-14, recording a .931 save percentage for MODO.
The Sabres' remaining restricted free agents include forwards Marcus Foligno, Johan Larsson, Zemgus Girgensons and Evan Rodrigues.