Not that there was ever a concern, but Jack Eichel isn’t going anywhere. The Buffalo Sabres took care of a major piece of housekeeping on Tuesday when they signed their star center and franchise player to an eight-year, $80 million contract extension.
8 year contract extension for Jack Eichel in Buffalo is complete. Aav of $10 million per year.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) October 3, 2017
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun is reporting the deal isn’t going to be officially signed until Wednesday but it’s a formality as the forward will be the centerpiece and building block of the Sabres franchise for the next nine seasons. Eichel was entering the final year of his three-year entry-level contract in 2017-18.
The Eichel Deal
Eichel will be getting a hefty raise from the cap hit of $925,000 he currently makes now. Of course, with performance bonuses, his salary was more likely to be as high as $3.775 million, but even if he’d hit every bonus, he’ll now be getting an over $6 million raise per season.
It’s a huge chunk of money and a clear indicator that the Sabres believe Eichel has nowhere to go but up. They’ve decided to go all-in on the bet. Not everyone believes it was the right amount, but most believe it was the right play to keep him a part of the franchise over the long haul.
Eichel checks a lot of boxes and he was due to get paid, but this was full value for the player and his salary now ranks him as the fifth-biggest salary cap hit in the NHL beginning in the 2018-19 season.
Some will question the timing of this deal, but most should understand the Sabres had no interest in taking chances. Eichel was prepared to play out this season without a contract, but the organization wanted to look after this right away and things moved quickly.
With the pending free agent set to potentially explode in 2017-18, what is a $10 million contract could have been even higher if the center had improved his points per game from last season to this and wound up with more than 85 or 90 points. Having finished 12th last season in that category (PPG), he was behind only Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Getzlaf and close to the top ten.
He finished with 57 points in 61 games in 2016-17 and has 48 goals and 65 assists for 113 points in his young and still progressing career.
There is an argument that can be made that this deal could have waited. Even if Eichel was to have scored 80 points (a clear jump from last season’s production), $10 million might have been the number later into the season. The reason this may have been done now is so that the team can name him captain while he has a long-term deal under his belt.
What This Means Going Forward
While Eichel will now be under immense pressure to lead the team into the postseason — a place the Sabres haven’t been since 2010-11 — he has also potentially set the bar for other players due to receive large contracts; namely Toronto Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews.
It was believed Leon Draisatl’s new $68 million deal was the low mark for Matthews and that his deal would more than likely see him fall somewhere in the $10-$11 million range. With Eichel getting $10 million, there’s not a chance that Matthews receives a penny less.
It’s a good day to be Jack Eichel. Sabres fans may be iffy about the money but at the end of the day should be happy that their franchise centerman is a Sabre for the foreseeable future.