SNOW: Time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the Eichel ride

By Kevin Snow

If you’ve spent even a minute of your time worrying that Jack Eichel won’t sign a contract extension with the Buffalo Sabres, that’s 60 seconds of your life that you’ll never get back. In a sports town that always seems to be looking one year down the road for the next big thing, it’s time to start appreciating what’s in front of you now.

Eichel has one year left on his entry-level contract, and has made it perfectly clear he’s willing to play the year out without a deal in place for next season. Since that’s the actual intention of a signed contract, that’s where the panic should end.

There has been no animosity coming from either side during negotiations, in fact they’ve been downright civil. Eichel has made it perfectly clear through various media outlets that he wants to remain in Buffalo for a very long time, and he was front and center when the NHL announced the Winter Classic game at Citi Field in New York last week. At no point during the summer has Eichel ever dodged the contract questions, or expressed any concern about the situation.
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Early reports set Eichel’s annual value in the $9-9.5 million range over eight years. Not a bad number, considering Connor McDavid’s $100 million deal signed this summer that comes with a record-setting $12.5 million cap hit for the next eight years.

But simply using McDavid’s contract as the direct comparison because of their 2015 Draft connection is unfair.

What McDavid has done over his first two seasons is other-worldly. He won the scoring title last season with 100 points in 82 games, and led the Oilers to their first playoff berth in 11 seasons. Through his first 148 NHL games, McDavid has averaged 1.17 points per game.

By comparison, Eichel has 113 points in 142 career games (.80/game) on a pair of middling Sabres teams that could barely get out of their own way most nights. What we’ve seen from Eichel in his first two seasons merely scratches the surface of what he will become in the NHL. He’s also the undisputed leader of this team, and is the most logical choice to be named the next captain.

Eichel knows he has a lot to prove this season, and stated as much when talking to reporters at KeyBank Center Thursday as the Sabres reported for the first day of training camp.

Hearing Eichel say that he’s coming off “two mediocre seasons on a losing team” should have made your eyes light up. Despite not turning 21 until October 28, Eichel has already shown more passion and drive that we’ve seen from any Sabres player in a very long time.

Starting the season without a new contract doesn’t seem to be a problem for Eichel, so you shouldn’t worry about either. In fact, Eichel betting on himself to drive up his own value in a contract year might be the best thing that could happen to this organization. Then it’s up to GM Jason Botterill to navigate the negotiations like he did in Pittsburgh with the contracts of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang.

Eichel has an opportunity to become the biggest homegrown superstar in Buffalo sports history. With apologies to names like Gilbert Perreault, Thurman Thomas and Bruce Smith, this is Eichel’s time to shine. The Sabres know it, and so does Eichel.

Now sit back, relax, and enjoy it.


Kevin Snow (@kwsnow) is a Canadian-born freelance writer now living in Buffalo, NY. A diehard Maple Leafs and Blue Jays fan, Kevin spent 10 seasons (2005-15) working with the Buffalo Sabres in their Public Relations and Web departments.

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