Eichel fine without signing extension before start of the season?

September 1, 2017

We continue to wait for the Buffalo Sabres and forward Jack Eichel to come to terms on a new contract extension. Eichel is about to enter the final year of his entry-level deal before becoming a restricted free agent on July 1, 2018.

Both sides have been in on-going discussions for a long-term contract since the beginning of July. It is clear that both Eichel and the Sabres want to get a max-term, eight-year contract, but the talking point continues to remain over money.

The goal for both sides is to get a contract extension signed and in place before the start of training camp on Thursday September 14. However, if talks continue to linger for the next couple of weeks, Eichel may be ready to start the 2017-18 season without a new extension.

"My sense a week or two ago was that they were still very hopeful that they would get a settlement done here and reach an agreement prior to the start of the season," TSN's Darren Dreger said with Martin Biron and Craig Rivet on The Instigators on Friday. "There's still that possibility, but I'm now getting the sense that, from a player's perspective, he's okay starting the season without a contract extension in place."

"They're still going back and forth. I wouldn't say that it's a strained negotiation by any sense. Jack and his representatives feel that based on what the market has proven in this offseason, he is a key piece and needs to be shown that market value. There has to be an understanding that they haven't quite reached, but I don't think we should read into that  in a negative fashion either."

"I think it would be preferred to get a contract extension done prior to the start of the year, but I don't get that [Eichel]'s losing any sleep over it at this point. It's still a healthy dialogue going back and forth between the club and the player."

If the Sabres and Eichel do not get a contract signed before the start of the season, they can still negotiate and get a new deal signed at any point during the year. However, it is more about the distraction of the contract negotiations that has a possibility of complicating things.

Although Eichel will likely not make the same amount of money as Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid just signed for a couple of months ago ($12.5 million), he is likely aiming to make more than Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl who signed a long-term extension worth $8.5 million at an annual average value.

Eichel finished the 2016-17 season 11th in the NHL for point per-game production, and that was after missing the first 21 games of the season with a high ankle sprain. Eichel has the potential to produce at an even higher rate down the road, but has yet to produce enough for the Sabres to be comfortable with signing him to a long-term deal at the kind of money he's likely asking for.

While many want the Sabres to get Eichel under contract as soon as possible, maybe waiting for the season to start could accelerate the process and result in an extension getting done before next July. This especially if Eichel can put up the production that many believe he can heading into a healthy, injury free season.

"If the hockey gods smile on Jack Eichel from a health perspective, I think this kid is going to light it up this year. I think he's going to have a tremendous season, which would be great for the Sabres as a team and Eichel," Dreger said. "There is a bit of a risk in all of this. If they don't get a deal done to start the year, maybe Eichel shelves discussions for a while. If he puts up the numbers that I'm thinking that he's likely going to put up, maybe the asking price bumps up a little bit higher as they continue to go back and forth."

You can listen to Dreger's entire interview with The Instigators below: