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Sabres’ salary cap outlook with Jack Eichel’s massive extension

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PHT already discussed whether Jack Eichel is really worth $80 million over eight years for the Buffalo Sabres. Although the short answer is “Yes,” there’s room for debate, so click here for more.

Fair or not, many hockey fans will judge Eichel based upon how the Sabres fare as a team; if they remain also-rans, big numbers might not save Eichel from taking the heat for his $10M cap hit.

Really, though, Eichel will need some help. Let’s take a look at the structure of this Sabres team to see where the strengths lie, the big decisions ahead, and the red flags waving in front of our faces.

This is part of a running series at PHT, so click here for more salary cap breakdowns.

Long-term commitments

Eichel’s contract extension won’t kick in until 2018-19, so the Sabres get one more year of rookie-deal savings before they pay up. His extension expires after 2025-26; the Sabres own Eichel’s prime years, so it will be fascinating to watch the ups and downs.

Eichel joins a few other lengthy commitments. Ryan O'Reilly, 26, isn’t cheap with a $7.5M cap hit. He’s a borderline Selke-worthy two-way forward who’s still in his prime, and it’s unlikely that he’ll regress sharply during this current deal, which runs for six more seasons.

At worst, “ROR” is a “$5 shake.”

Kyle Okposo, 29, carries a $6M cap hit through 2022-23. It’s tough to beat up too much on the winger considering how comforting it is that Okposo is OK after his health scares. Okposo’s a solid guy right now, assuming he’s healthy, but that could be a problem deal.

Rasmus Ristolainen ($5.4M for five more seasons) is a fascinating case. On one hand, he scored 45 points at the ripe age of 22. On the other hand, he’s framed as a disaster in his own end; TSN’s Travis Yost listed him as a “dud” from an analytics standpoint. You might not find a better case of perception … unless “eye test” types aren’t impressed, either?

The Sabres boast two other mid-range guys with expensive, three-year deals: Zach Bogosian and Marco Scandella. That’s almost $10M in debatable defensemen (though they both could help, even if one or both might be overpriced).

Off the books soon

Jason Pominville ($5.6M) and Matt Moulson ($5M) are two aging wingers whose contracts expire after two more seasons. Pominville has more to offer going forward, but you’d think that management is keen on transferring many of those dollars to younger players.

Josh Gorges only has one year remaining on his $3.9M, so as much as Eichel adds to the bottom line, Buffalo is ridding itself of some problems soon.

You almost wonder if Buffalo might accept a bad expiring deal or two if this season goes wrong, just to gain riches soon enough?

Big choices

Robin Lehner can be a scary dude. The 26-year-old has also shown flashes of serious brilliance as a goalie. He’s in a contract year, so the Sabres must decide if the intimidating netminder is a part of the future or not.

Chad Johnson backs him up with a one-year deal of his own.

Evander Kane, 26, faces quite the crossroads in his career, as his $5.25M cap hit will expire after 2016-17. Kane is on the short list of players who future value is difficult to determine; seriously, what kind of contract do you expect for the power forward? Years and term both stand as tough to determine.

Growth areas

The Sabres have some interesting guys on two-year deals: Zemgus Girgensons, Jake McCabe, Nathan Beaulieu, and others could be key fixtures or short-term guys.

Naturally, the Sabres also have some other young players, with Alex Nylander and Sam Reinhart being make-or-break types. Buffalo’s been enjoying some strong draft picks while adding some potential foundational pieces; the crucial thing, then, is to actually develop some of them into difference-makers.

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Cap Friendly places Buffalo’s 2018-19 cap spending at $56.56M with Eichel’s deal in mind. That provides some serious room to maneuver, even if the ceiling remains flat at $75M.

Despite this huge investment, the Sabres’ new management has room to operate. They have some nice pieces and a worry or two. Some crucial decisions and serious progress (or failed developments) may determine if Buffalo can really contend.

Notable playoff performances on NBCSN: Kane’s hat trick tops Kings

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Hockey Week in America continues Friday with some big-time individual playoff performances.

The Western Conference foes dueled to a Game 7 that went into double overtime. Dallas relied on St. Louis native Ben Bishop and his 52 saves, the 5th-most saves in a Game 7 in history, to nearly defeat the Blues, but St. Louis prevailed 2-1, on the way to their historic 2019 Stanley Cup run.

Kenny Albert, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire called the action from Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Mo.

You can catch Kane’s Game 5 hat trick Friday on NBCSN beginning at 12 a.m. ET or watch the stream here.

FRIDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE:
• Kane’s hat trick: Kings vs. Blackhawks (2013 Western Conference Final) – 12 a.m. ET

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Week in America can be found here.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Notable playoff performances on NBCSN: Bishop, Maroon shine in Game 7

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Hockey Week in America continues Friday with some big-time individual playoff performances.

In a double-overtime thriller between these two Western Conference contenders, Patrick Kane and his series-clinching hat trick propelled Chicago to a 4-3 victory. In the Stanley Cup Final, the Blackhawks defeated the Bruins to capture the 2013 championship.

The late, great Dave Strader, Darren Pang, and Brian Engblom had the call from United Center in Chicago, Ill.

You can catch Bishop’s 52-save performance and other memorable individual playoff memories Friday on NBCSN beginning at 10 p.m. ET.

FRIDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE:
• Bishop’s 52-save effort: Stars vs. Blues (Round 2, Game 7, 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs) – 10 p.m. ET
• Kane’s hat trick: Kings vs. Blackhawks (2013 Western Conference Final) – 12 a.m. ET

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Week in America can be found here.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Notable playoff performances on NBCSN: Tavares leads Isles into Round 2

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Hockey Week in America continues Friday with some big-time individual playoff performances.

Trailing by one with less than a minute remaining in regulation with the extra attacker on the ice, Islanders captain John Tavares scored to tie the game at one to force overtime. In the second overtime period, Tavares scored the game-winner, leading the Islanders to a playoff series win in 2016 for the first time in 23 years.

Chris Cuthbert and Ray Ferraro called the matchup from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

You can catch Tavares’ two-goal night and other memorable individual playoff performances Friday on NBCSN beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

FRIDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE:
• Tavares’ big night: Panthers vs. Islanders (Round 1, Game 6, 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs) – 8 p.m. ET
• Bishop’s 52-save effort: Stars vs. Blues (Round 2, Game 7, 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs) – 10 p.m. ET
• Kane’s hat trick: Kings vs. Blackhawks (2013 Western Conference Final) – 12 a.m. ET

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Week in America can be found here.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Blues broadcaster ‘symptom free’ after self-quarantine

Longtime St. Louis Blues broadcaster John Kelly, jr. during the St. Louis Blues victory parade
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The quarantine strategy medical professionals have urged society to use have proved effective once again.

John Kelly, a broadcaster for the St. Louis Blues, tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and is now symptom free after being self-quarantined for 14 days.

The St. Louis Blues released the following statement earlier Friday.

The St. Louis Blues are confirming that play-by-play announcer John Kelly has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

John has been in self-quarantine since March 13. We are thrilled to report that John is now feeling strong and symptom free.

The health and safety of the entire Blues family remains our core focus during these unprecedented times. We wish John well as he continues his recovery at home.

Follow this NBC News live update thread for more on the coronavirus pandemic.


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.