This post is part of Sabres Day on PHT…
The Buffalo Sabres have one of the best young forwards in the NHL in Jack Eichel, and now they need to figure out how to get him under contract for the foreseeable future.
The Sabres have already said that they’d like to get something done this summer, but they can still take care of business during the season, as Eichel still has one year remaining on his entry-level contract.
In his first year, he put up 24 goals and 56 points in 81 games. Those are pretty impressive numbers considering he was just 19 at the time and he wasn’t exactly surrounded by a star-studded roster.
Last season, Eichel scored the same amount of goals and added one more assist than the previous year, but he did it in just 61 games (he suffered an ankle injury during a team practice right before the start of the season).
The 20-year-old had multi-point efforts in his first two games of the season, but he really took off in February. Between Feb. 2 and Mar. 27, he scored 11 goals and 22 assists in 26 games.
If Eichel progresses in his third year like he progressed in his second, it’s hard to imagine him not scoring at least 75 points (if he can stay healthy) in 2017-18.
It’s clear that the Sabres are all-in when it comes to their franchise center. As soon as there were rumblings about Eichel and head coach Dan Bylsma not getting along, ownership decided to let go of the coach and general manager Tim Murray.
Alright, so we know Eichel is going to be getting a raise from his entry-level contract, but how much money will it take to lock him up lock term?
He isn’t in the same category as Connor McDavid (nobody is) so he won’t hit the same $13.25 million cap number. Still, he’s in for a significant raise, and “buying” those free-agent years definitely won’t come cheap, but at least he wants to be there for the long haul.
“I want to be here for a long time,” the Sabres forward told the Buffalo News back in April. “That’s the way I look at it. I don’t want to go anywhere else. I don’t want anybody to think that I want to be somewhere else. I want to be here, and I want to help this team win in any way that I can do that. I just want all the people there to know that.”
The highest paid player on the roster is Ryan O'Reilly, who signed a seven-year deal worth $52.5 million ($7.5 million AAV) in July of 2015. You have to figure that Eichel will become the highest paid player on his team after he signs this extension.
So, if Buffalo hopes to get him under team control for eight more years, it will likely cost them at least $64 million to do so.
Predators center Ryan Johansen just signed an eight-year, $64 million contract extension late last month. Johansen has been in the league longer, and has scored 26 and 33 goals in his two best years. He’s also more than four years older than Eichel. As good as Johansen is, it’s hard to argue that Eichel doesn’t have a higher ceiling at this point.
All-in-all, Buffalo might need to fork out close to $9 million annually if they want to get this contract finalized.