Is an Eichel contract extension coming soon?

July 17, 2017 - 10:05 am

As the Buffalo Sabres head into the waiting period before the team returns for training camp in September, there is one big question that remains: When will Jack Eichel sign a contract extension with the Sabres?

The 20-year old center is about to head into the final year of his rookie deal before becoming a restricted free agent next July. Eichel finished last season as nearly a point per-game player with 57 points in 61 games played. This could have been a different story if not for a high ankle sprain that forced him to miss the first 21 games of the season.

With the production that Eichel has put up in his first two seasons in the National Hockey League, it is fair to say that the Sabres' young superstar is set to get a nice pay day with his next contract. While it has been known that general manager Jason Botterill and the Sabres are talking to Eichel's representatives, there is no telling when a new contract extension could get done.

"It's an ongoing process for the Sabres and Peter Fish and the agency that represents Jack Eichel," said TSN's Darren Dreger with The Instigators on Friday. "There's a willingness and an eagerness, I would say, from both sides to get something done."

"There's on again and off again meetings, there's nothing negative in any sense at this point. They continue to meet, they continue to have discussions and they're heading in the right direction. This is the focus now for Jason Botterill. He's done a hefty amount of work to this point as the new general manager of the Buffalo Sabres, and from Eichel's perspective and the people that manage his affairs from a business stand point, [they] are also zeroed in on this. I don't anticipate that this thing is going to drag out much longer."

It has been made pretty clear that the Sabres are looking to lock up Eichel to a long-term contract that will keep him with the Sabres for an additional seven to eight years after this season. While term is certainly a concern in Eichel's next contract, perhaps the bigger question at hand is what kind of money will Eichel make in his next deal?

Nearly two weeks ago, Connor McDavid signed a historic contract extension with the Edmonton Oilers that will pay him $100 million over eight years starting next year. This deal will make McDavid the highest paying player in NHL history as a 20-year old.

While it's not likely that Eichel will earn the same as McDavid at the start of his new deal, the bar has been set for the value of contracts for players who have an impact as a "franchise player". With that, Eichel and his agents can look at McDavid's contract and be able to set a price at where they feel Eichel can compare to his 2015 NHL Draft counterpart.

"I think that there's clear comparables now if you want to look around the market," Dreger said. "It starts with Connor McDavid and his eight-year, $100 million extension with the Edmonton Oilers. Just prior to that, you had Carey Price re-upping with the Montreal Canadiens. What we're talking about here is cornerstone players, franchise pieces. Jack Eichel fits comfortably in to that category from where I sit."

"I'd be real surprised if the Buffalo Sabres weren't thinking and looking long-term. That makes the most sense for everyone... There's no question that McDavid left some money on the table even though he signed a $100 million contract. He felt he had to give something back to make sure they had a little bit of wiggle room to sign other players like Leon Draisaitl, and some of the other issues from a business standpoint that they're going to face moving forward."

Of the $100 million that McDavid is set to make in his new deal, $86 million of that deal is in signing bonus money. This may be a form of lockout protection to guarantee that McDavid gets his money if there were to be another lockout when the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires. With the Sabres and owner Terry Pegula not afraid to throw that kind of money around, Dreger says that Eichel could be more enticed to take that kind of money if the team offers it to him.

"If the organization is willing to pay you up front, and that's effectively what's happening with these big bonus structured deals, then take it. Get your money July 1st, invest it wisely and manage your money accordingly so that you don't have to worry about lockouts and buyouts and some of the other nasty stuff that can hit you later in the contract."

While a new contract for Eichel is on the near horizon, another player in need of a new contract soon is former second overall pick in 2014, Sam Reinhart.

Reinhart, 21, is about to enter the final year of his entry-level deal that will also see him become a restricted free agent next July. After the final day of Sabres development camp last week, Botterill said that he doesn't believe anything from a contract standpoint will happen this summer. Reinhart did put up a more productive season in terms of numbers with 17 goals and 47 points in 79 games. However, many considered Reinhart's most recent season to be a down year after putting up an impressive rookie season with 23 goals and 42 points in 79 games.

Getting Reinhart re-signed to a new contract extension may sound like a good idea, but the right move at this time is to wait and see how the 2017-18 season plays out.

"There's no rush with Sam Reinhart," Dreger said. "You believe that you know what you've got in a developing - still developing young player, but are you 100-percent certain of that? Sam Reinhart, I'm sure, is confident that he's going to have a better year; that he's going to prove that he's worth a bigger contract, if that's what he's gunning for. That also presents some options for the Buffalo Sabres. If things don't go 100-percent according to plan, maybe he becomes a trade bait option for the Buffalo Sabres at some point next season."

"I like this little play here by Botterill, specific to Reinhart. We're a long way away from seeing the best from Sam Reinhart in terms of what his top end may be."

With everything seeming to go smoothly in contract negotiations, it sounds promising that a deal can be struck some time very soon with Eichel and the Sabres. And while Botterill still has Eichel under contract for another season, it has been made clear that Eichel is his top priority at this point heading into the 2017-18 season.


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