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Report: No extension, no problem for Jack Eichel

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It’s reasonable to assume that this has been a pretty good summer for Jack Eichel, at least in an indirect way.

Just look at the big, eight-year deals the Edmonton Oilers handed out. Whether it be Connor McDavid getting $12.5 million per year or Leon Draisaitl receiving $8.5M in AAV, each contract seems like it would be a small victory for Eichel’s camp.

FanRag’s Chris Nichols transcribed interviews Buffalo’s WGR 550 conducted with Darren Dreger and Alex Tanguay, providing some interesting perspectives on Eichel possibly entering the 2017-18 season without a contract extension locked down.

The most important takeaway likely comes from Dreger, who reports that Eichel would be OK with the idea of a contract year.

“My sense a week or even two weeks ago was that they were still very hopeful that they would get a settlement done here, they would reach an agreement prior to the start of the season,” Dreger said on WGR 550, via Nichols. “There’s still that possibility, but I’m now getting the sense that – certainly from the player’s perspective – he’s okay starting the season without this contract extension in place.”

Tanguay believes that the Sabres might be the greater beneficiary of Eichel playing out the year, but considering Eichel’s importance to Buffalo, it’s tough to imagine the second pick of the 2015 NHL Draft coming at a major discount.

The best is yet to come

Eichel enjoyed a strong rookie season, scoring 24 goals and 56 points in 81 games in 2015-16. Despite missing 20 games this past season, Eichel once again scored 24 goals and finished with 57 points, firing 249 shots on goal during that time.

Scoring 57 points in 61 games would translate to 76 points in an 82-game season. While you could argue that maybe fatigue would slow Eichel a bit in that scenario, it’s interesting to note that Eichel would have generated virtually the same results as Draisaitl did in 2016-17 (the Oilers forward had 77 points).

Beyond even those injury woes, Eichel hasn’t enjoyed a ton of puck luck yet in his career. Draisaitl, for example, scored 29 goals with a 16.9 shooting percentage. Eichel only connected on 10.1 and 9.6 percent of his high volume of shots in his first two seasons.

It’s plausible that the Sabres could make a big push toward competence as a team next season, and Eichel could see a big jump. Draisaitl himself went from 51 to 77 points, enormously improving his perceived value in the process.

(Eichel, for one, believes that Buffalo could make the playoffs.)

At 20, Eichel is easily in the range where a talented player could make a huge leap, especially if there’s the extra motivation of a contract year involved (whether he went through the full thing or the Sabres eventually decided to pony up).

Risk-reward

If healthy, Eichel seems likely to eclipse 30 goals and 70 points. What if he enjoys a hot streak, though? He boasts the opportunities and skills to reach as high as 40 goals and 80 points, possibly costing the Sabres extra millions in their gamble.

MORE: What might his contract look like?

And that, really, is the question: how much would the Sabres really stand to save in waiting? Eichel has reason to sign if there’s a fair deal, too, as an extension provides peace of mind in a violent sport where injury luck can be fickle.

In many cases, teams send a clear signal that their core guys are a priority, locking them up to extensions just about as early as possible.

Eichel is an integral talent for the Sabres, so they might as well treat him as such. It might just save them a few bucks in the process.

NHL suspends Desjardins two preseason games for illegal check to the head

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The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has issued another two-game preseason suspension, this time to Andrew Desjardins of the New York Rangers.

The incident occurred during the first period of Saturday’s game between the Rangers and New Jersey Devils, as Desjardins delivered a hit to the head of Miles Wood.

Desjardins received a match penalty for an illegal check to the head, and a two-game preseason ban on Monday.

“Desjardins, looking to prevent Wood from cutting to the front of the net, steps in front of Wood and delivers a high hit, which makes the head the main point of contact on a hit where such head contact was avoidable,” stated the Department of Player Safety in a video explanation.

“It is important to note that Wood is eligible to be hit on this play, provided it is done in a legal manner. However, rather than taking an angle of approach that results in a legal, full-bodied check, Desjardins takes an angle of approach that picks Wood’s head, making it the main point of contact.”

The Rangers are in action right now versus the Philadelphia Flyers. They have one game remaining on their preseason schedule after tonight, as they take on the Flyers again tomorrow.

Desjardins was attending Rangers camp on a professional tryout.

 

Devils score early and often, opening up seven-goal lead vs. Senators

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Tough night for the Ottawa Senators and, specifically, goaltender Mike Condon on Monday.

Playing the New Jersey Devils in the Kraft Hockeyville showcase in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Condon allowed seven goals on 17 shots before the midway point of the second period.

Andrew Hammond then entered into the game for Ottawa, with the Senators down 7-0.

Marcus Johansson started the scoring onslaught for New Jersey. Nico Hischier gave the Devils a three-goal lead before the eight-minute mark of the opening period, and John Quenneville scored twice in less than 30 seconds to put New Jersey up by seven in the second period.

Golden Knights embed season ticket members’ names in T-Mobile Arena ice

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The Vegas Golden Knights have chosen an interesting way to honor their season ticket members, as the organization inches closer to starting its inaugural NHL regular season.

The Golden Knights will, for the first time, play on their home ice at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday against the L.A. Kings in preseason action. To commemorate this historic season, the organization will embed the names of its season ticket members into the ice surface at their home arena.

(You can check out the video here. Very cool.)

“That it was feasible, if we wanted to do something special on the ice, that we had the ability to put texture to something on the ice, before the laid the last round of it,” said Todd Pollock, Golden Knights vice-president of ticketing and suites.

“It’s in the thousands, the number of names out there. Many thousands.”

The Golden Knights have played four preseason games so far — all on the road. They open the regular season with two games in two nights on the road, on Oct. 6 versus the Dallas Stars and the following night versus the Arizona Coyotes. They return to Vegas for their home opener against the Coyotes on Oct. 10.

NHL players weigh in on national anthem protests, divisive President Trump comments

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A number of National Hockey League players and coaches on Monday expressed their opinions about the national anthem protests and the divisive comments of President Donald Trump during a rally on Friday and on Twitter this weekend.

At a rally on Friday, Trump urged NFL team owners to fire players that take a knee during the National Anthem. He reiterated those remarks on Twitter the following day.

On Sunday, almost every NFL team took part in a form of protest against racial inequality and injustice during the anthem. Some players took a knee. Other players linked arms with fellow players, coaches and even team owners in a show of solidarity. Some teams, like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans did not take the field during the anthem.

On Monday, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews, who is 20 years old and from Scottsdale, AZ., said he would not take part in protest during the anthem.

“My great uncle served, I have friends and family who’ve served, there’s men and women who have risked their lives for the United States, people who have died for the United States,” Matthews said, per Sportsnet.

“I don’t know if kneeling, sitting, stretching is something I’d really look into doing because to me it’s like a dishonour to the men and women that fight for that flag, fight for the U.S. I don’t think I’d be one of the people to take part in that.”

Boston Bruins forward David Backes, who is from Minneapolis, MN., said he will continue to stand during the Star Spangled Banner.

“My opinion is that I’m American and I love my country and I love my flag,” said Backes, per CSNNE.com.

“I’ve got great buddies that have been in the military and they’ve sacrificed for my freedom, so I’d never want to do anything to disrespect that. My standpoint is that I’m standing for every national anthem with my hand over my heart and I’m staring at that flag recognizing those sacrifices. If I’ve got beef with a social justice issue or something else-wise, I’m going to find different avenues that are not disrespectful, especially to those that are military men and women that give me the freedom to do what I do.”

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk told the Edmonton Journal that players have the right to protest, while his head coach Bill Peters does not believe that kneeling during the National Anthem is a sign of disrespect.

“I understand both sides. I don’t think anyone is truly trying to disrespect the flag, to be honest with you,” Peters told the Raleigh News & Observer. “I think people have too much pride in what’s going on in their countries, and they just want to make it better and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler is believed to be the first NHL player to publicly speak out against the comments of President Trump, doing so from his verified Twitter account on Saturday. His comments followed scathing criticism of the President from a number of athletes, including NBA stars LeBron James and Stephen Curry, in the wake of what Trump said at the rally. Following Sunday’s schedule of games, a number of NFL players spoke about the protests.

“I’m absolutely for the first amendment,” said Wheeler, when asked if he would support a teammate if they decide to take a knee during the National Anthem.

“I’m a big believer that what makes America a special place is you’re allowed to stand up for what you believe in. With just cause, if someone were electing to do that they would 100 percent have my support. Even if I don’t necessarily agree with why they do it it is their right to feel that way, it is their right to behave that way. If I didn’t agree with it, I would absolutely sit down, have a coffee, talk about it, try to understand why they feel that way and maybe you become a little more sympathetic.”