If current headlines are to be believed, Jack Eichel’s contract extension is well on its way to being created. Many writers have hypothesized that Buffalo should, pony up and pay Eichel 10+ million per year. While I don’t agree with these numbers I believe Eichel should receive equal to or slightly more than the German, Leon Draisaitl.
Eichel has been a steady contributor since his rookie campaign, and over the past two years has accumulated 48 goals and 113 points in 142 games, good for .79 points per game. Not only that, but in a campaign that was abridged due to injury — he missed 21 games — Eichel still managed to set a career high with 57 points in 2016-17. Keep in mind, a high ankle sprain takes months to truly recover. Some players state that a high ankle sprain has written off seasons, as training capacity and travel prevent meaningful healing.
While he may not be there yet, all signs point to Eichel breaking out as a point-per-game player anytime now. On a Buffalo Sabres team that desperately needs a elite scorer, GM Jason Botteril hoped the two sides can come to an agreement before the start of the season. However, for the purposes of finding comparisons, it’s worth looking simply at players who’ve had a similar scoring rate across the first two years of their career. And once that’s done, you get an intriguing list of names, most of whom are franchise players in the same vein as Eichel.
Now he won’t earn McDavid-esque money his contract should be north of 6 million per year. If he earns 7.5 million per season, that will total 10 percent of the cap available to the Sabres. This is a truly reasonable contract to earn for the franchise player.
Over the past two seasons, Eichel has done his part, posting 24 goals and 56 points as a rookie and then an almost identical stat line one year later in 21 fewer games. However, his club hasn’t fared quite as well, finishing second-last in the Atlantic Division in 2015-16 and last in 2016-17.
The highest paid player on the roster is Ryan O’Reilly, who signed a seven-year deal worth $52.5 million ($7.5 million AAV) in July of 2015. You have to figure that Eichel will become the highest paid player on his team after he signs this extension.
So, if Buffalo hopes to get him under team control for eight more years, it will likely cost them at least $64 million to do so. Draisaitl and Pasternak are two players who have had greater successes, with better talent around them. Also being healthier has benefitted both players.
Six weeks after extending Connor McDavid for eight years and $100 million US, the Oilers signed 21-year-old Leon Draisaitl to an eight-year contract of his own with a sizable annual cap hit of $8.5 million. Paired primarily with McDavid, Draisaitl posted a career-best 77 points last season — eighth-best in the NHL.
I’d say Eichel has done extremely well with his current opportunity. 8.5 million per year is not out of the realm of possibility, as the Sabres have 7 million left in cap space, and still need to sign Sam Reinhart before the 2018-19 campaign. Keep in mind key piece Evander Kane is up for a contract this season and I fully expect him to be shopped by the Sabres. Whether it is now or at the deadline, Kane’s cap hit and unpredictable injuries make for him to be an expandable piece in relation to the Sabres future. Simply getting Kane off the books would allow Eichel to be signed for over 8 million per year. 8-9 million represents a fair deal for a player with the caliber of Eichel. A simple restructuring of the books will allow for meaningful growth that the Sabres desperately need. Kane makes 5.2 million, and his departure would leave significant room for Eichel and Reinhart to be signed long term to the Sabres.