Ryan Garbutt sat in the Dallas Stars locker room today and reminisced about how he made $400 per week in his first season as a pro hockey player, and remembered that first paycheck coming in at $270.
“You made $400 a week?” teammate Alex Chiasson asked. “You’re a millionaire now.”
Garbutt’s come a long way since that first pro season in the Central Hockey League. And he’s come a long way from making $400 a week. The Dallas Stars announced Wednesday that they signed Garbutt to a three-year contract extension. The deal is worth $5.4 million for an average of $1.8 million per season, a hefty raise from the $600,000 he is making this season.
“It’s huge for me,” Garbutt said. “I said from the beginning I wanted to stay here. I am definitely happy that I have that opportunity and that chance. I am thankful for having all these great teammates and I look forward to playing a long time with them.”
Garbutt, who had five goals and eight assists in 56 games in his first two seasons with the Stars, is having a career year this season. He has ten goals and eight assists in 46 games.
“I’ve seen a lot of things I’ve liked,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “He’s added a lot of speed to our team. He’s an important guy on our penalty kill. On the offensive side, if you can get into that 10-15 goal range you’ll be a factor, and that’s a very effective player. He’s had good chemistry, he has a good role here and he fits in how we want to play. I’m happy for him.”
The 28-year-old Garbutt has opened some eyes this season. He came into training camp fighting to be an everyday player, and has gone on to establish himself as a key part of the team.
“He’s had a great year,” said Stars GM Jim Nill. “He’s gotten better every year he has been here in Dallas. He’s gotten better every year in his career. He’s a guy that was not given a job. He’s earned it his whole career and he’s made himself a very valuable player on our team.
“He came in probably fighting to be the 12th or 13th forward and you look at him with Cody Eakin and Antoine Roussel, they’ve become one of the top lines in the league to shut down other top lines. He’s putting points up, he’s got good speed. He plays hard. It’s hard to find those players.”
Garbutt, who was due to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, probably would have drawn some attention around the trade deadline, but the Stars see him as a key piece moving forward.
Garbutt could have opted to test the free agent waters, but his priority was to stay in Dallas.
“I thought about [free agency] a tiny bit, not that much,” Garbutt said. “I always wanted to stay here. I love the guys on the team. I love the city of Dallas, awesome city, great fans. I am just thankful to be here.”
The Winnipeg native took a long road to the NHL. After playing four seasons at Brown University, Garbutt decided to take a shot at his dream of playing professional hockey. He played one season with Corpus Christi of the Central Hockey League, one with Gwinnett of the ECHL and one with Chicago of the AHL before signing with the Stars as a free agent in the summer of 2011.
“I always had the goal of playing in the NHL and I worked hard to do that,” Garbutt said. “I worked hard at school, but hockey was my first priority and I am very fortunate to have this opportunity.”
He started the 2011-12 season with the Texas Stars of the AHL, was called up to Dallas in February 2012 and has never looked back.
“That’s the part that you really like. He’s come from a long ways,” said Ruff. “He’s had to work hard at every level. He’s had to prove himself at every level. He’s reached this level and we really hope he continues to grow. He strives to get that next level, and that might be 15-20. What I like is that nothing has really been given to him. He’s had to earn it and he earned what he got today.”
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.