Evander Kane

Sabres lock up O’Reilly through 2022-23

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Ryan O’Reilly won’t have to engage in another contract negotiation for a while. The Buffalo Sabres have given him a seven-year extension, locking the 24-year-old forward up through 2022-23.

O’Reilly’s cap hit next season will be $6 million, per the two-year contract he signed with Colorado last summer. For the next seven seasons after that, it’ll be $7.5 million, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

It was the failure of O’Reilly and the Avalanche to agree on a long-term deal that led to him being traded to Buffalo last week. He’d reportedly asked Colorado for an eight-year, $64 million contract. Ultimately, that was too rich for the Avs, who felt they had no choice but to trade him.

In Buffalo, O’Reilly will be the Sabres’ highest-paid player. Evander Kane’s cap hit is $5.25 million, Zach Bogosian’s is $5.14 million, Matt Moulson’s is $5 million, and Tyler Ennis’s is $4.6 million.

O’Reilly’s contract is also structured in a way (see: David Clarkson’s deal) that makes it difficult to be bought out:

Related: Jack Eichel signs entry-level deal with Sabres

Jets sign Brendan Lemieux, Claude’s son, to entry-level deal

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The Winnipeg Jets have locked in one of the young prospects acquired in the Evander Kane trade, inking Brendan Lemieux to a three-year, entry-level deal on Friday.

Details:

Picked 31st overall by Buffalo at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Lemieux spent last year in OHL Barrie and performed well, scoring 41 goals and 60 points in 57 games. And if you’re wondering if Brendan shares anything in common with Claude, do consider he’s racked up 290 PIM combined over the last two years.

Jets fans are getting their first real look at Lemieux today, too. Winnipeg’s prospects camp gets underway at the MTS Iceplex, and should feature former first-round picks Nikolaj Ehlers, Josh Morrissey, Kyle Connor, Jack Roslovic and Joel Armia who, like Lemieux, also came to Winnipeg in the Kane trade.

Worlds helped convince Eichel to go pro

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Even the day before the draft, Jack Eichel didn’t want to say if he would spend another season with Boston University or sign an entry-level contract over the summer. There was a time when he wasn’t sure himself, but playing in the 2015 World Championship helped inform his decision.

That was the first time he played competitively with and against some of the world’s top professional players. Versus that level of competition he had two goals and seven points in 10 games.

“Before the world championships, I was a little bit unsure,” he told the Buffalo News. “After going over there and having the experience I did, talking to a lot of guys, I came back pretty set on moving on. I could never really make anything public because I hadn’t been drafted yet.”

He made it official Wednesday by signing with the Buffalo Sabres. Along with Evander Kane and Ryan O’Reilly, he’ll be tasked with breathing new life into the worst offensive team of 2014-15. Expectations should be conservative for next season, but there’s no question that the hope is Eichel will develop into the cornerstone of this franchise.

Neely was ‘surprised’ that Hamilton didn’t want to sign with Bruins

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Yesterday, Dougie Hamilton didn’t want to talk about his reasons for wanting out of Boston.

“For me, I’m just going to keep on saying how excited I am to be a Flame and looking forward to the future and everything,” he said. “What’s in the past is in the past and I think I’m just looking forward to being a Flame to moving to Calgary and seeing the city and the fans.”

But it’s clear he no longer wanted to be a Bruin.

It’s been speculated that the 22-year-old defenseman didn’t get along with coach Claude Julien. There was also talk at the draft in Florida that he felt bullied by Boston’s veteran players. And that may mesh with the report that Hamilton wasn’t the most popular figure in the Bruins’ room.

The whole thing is somewhat reminiscent of Evander Kane’s departure from Winnipeg, minus the clothes in the shower.

Whatever led to Hamilton’s unwillingness to sign long-term with the Bruins, it took club president Cam Neely by surprise.

“I really didn’t get any indications of anything negative in exit meetings,” Neely told the Boston Globe. “So I was surprised.”

Neely told the newspaper that the Bruins made three separate offers — one for four years, another for five, and a third for six. The salary, according to Neely, was not far off what Hamilton agreed to be paid in Calgary.

“We wanted Dougie,” Neely said.

But he didn’t want them.

Related: Sweeney explains Hamilton trade: ‘We extended Dougie a very significant contract offer’

How much better will the Sabres be next season? Murray says: ‘quite a bit’

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The Buffalo Sabres are going to be better next season.

In part, because it’d be hard to be worse.

But mostly because the roster has been significantly improved by GM Tim Murray, who not only drafted Jack Eichel yesterday, but also added Ryan O’Reilly, Robin Lehner, Jamie McGinn, and David Legwand in trades.

We’ll assume Eichel goes pro and does not go back to school, though he still hasn’t announced a decision. The Sabres will also have Evander Kane, the goal-scoring winger they got from Winnipeg. And Sam Reinhart, the second overall pick in 2014, should be ready too.

On top of all that, they’ll have a Stanley Cup-winning head coach in Dan Bylsma.

Though Murray believes it may take some time for the group to gel, he was clearly happy with how his plan had come together.

“I can tell you that our players back home are excited,” Murray told reporters, per NHL.com. “I got a couple texts from different guys, and if that excitement that they showed today carries over into training camp, I believe we can improve by quite a bit. In saying that, we’ve got a long way to go to improve to get to be competitive or a playoff team.”