Tyler Myers’ wallet is in good shape in spite of the NHL lockout. Far more important for the Buffalo Sabres and their fans, it appears his ankle is too.
After spending several months in Austria, the 22-year-old who will be one of the anchors of the Buffalo defense, hit the ice at the Northtown Center at Amherst for his first workout Thursday in preparation for the start of training camp Sunday.
And the 6-foot-8 Myers looked good, able to do plenty of pushing, twisting and turning on the left ankle he strained last month while playing for Klagenfurt AC. Myers missed nearly three weeks but returned to score a shootout-winning goal for his team Friday night, before coming to North America on Tuesday after the lockout ended.
“I came back for the one game and it felt fine,” Myers said. “I made sure it was ready to go before I came back. I’m feeling 100 percent.”
Myers said the injury made him a little nervous at first.
“Once we figured out what it was, I knew it would be pretty quick. I didn’t want to push it to try to come back too early in case the season came back here.”
Myers’ seven-year, $38.5 million deal signed last fall is one of the classic second-time contracts the NHL tried to squeeze in to the lockout by demanding term limits. His scheduled salary of $12 million this year, his fourth in the NHL, is surpassed only by the $14 million Nashville will pay defenseman Shea Weber.
While NHL players missed several paychecks during the 113-day lockout, many did in fact take in some big bucks because signing bonuses are paid July 1. Myers got one of the biggest in the league.
According to Capgeek.com, Weber got a $13 million bonus and Myers was next in line at $10 million, tied with Minnesota’s Ryan Suter and Zach Parise.
Several reports, as teams are gathering around the league, have players organizing some team dinners at the expense of the guys who got the big bucks. Has Myers heard any such thing since he got to town?
“Oh, once or twice,” he said with a pained smile. “But I think that comes with the territory.”
(For the record, Myers has some mates with which to share the tab. Christian Ehrhoff got $5 million of the $8 million he was to earn this year from the Sabres on July 1 and Ville Leino got $4 million of his $5 million.)
Myers had three goals, seven assists and 37 penalty minutes in 17 games in Austria. One of them was against Graz, which featured Sabres winger Thomas Vanek.
Myers said playing against Vanek “was fun but it was strange. When I first got over there, I didn’t realize how big ‘Vanek Nation’ was. To get a taste of that, it’s pretty unbelievable how much influence he has in Austria and how much those people look up to him.
“It was a good experience. We don’t want to be in this situation in the first place but it was a great alternative and the team was really good to me.”
Other first-timers joining Myers in the workouts Thursday were goaltender Jhonas Enroth, defenseman Andrej Sekera and newly acquired backliner Adam Pardy.
The team will skate in Amherst again today at 10:30. Former Sabres enforcer Andrew Peters, who is running the workouts with ex-Buffalo defenseman Jay McKee, tweeted that goaltender Ryan Miller, Ehrhoff and fellow defensemen Alexander Sulzer and Robyn Regehr will all be on the ice today.
The only missing players are likely to be the injured Nathan Gerbe and Cody McCormick and the Rochester tandem of Marcus Foligno and Cody Hodgson, who will arrive Sunday.
The Sabres are beginning to mail season tickets in stages. Individual tickets go on sale Monday at 10 a.m. to Sabres Insider members and Tuesday at 10 to the public.
Current mini-pack holders and Blue & Gold Club members will be contacted via email today on how to select games. New mini-pack sales open Monday at 10 a.m.
All ticket options can be purchased online at Sabres.com and Tickets.com, by calling (888) 223-6000, or in person at the First Niagara Center box office, which will be open next week from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The team also announced a Fan Appreciation Sale at the Sabres Store. All items will be discounted 50 percent throughout training camp and the first home game.