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Sabres hope to extend Eichel soon

Forward could agree to eight-year contract in near future

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

BUFFALO -- The Buffalo Sabres hope to extend the contract of center Jack Eichel soon, general manager Jason Botterill said Monday.

Eichel is entering the final season of the three-year, entry-level contract he signed after being chosen by the Sabres with the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. He confirmed on Sept. 7 that his agent, Peter Fish, has been talking with Botterill about an eight-year contract.

"It's a situation where both parties really would like to get a deal done and we continue to be very cordial in our discussions," said Botterill, who is watching the Sabres in the Prospects Challenge at HarborCenter. "It has to be a situation where both groups are very comfortable with where the number is and where the term is and are excited about continuing this relationship moving forward.

"I think you've seen [Eichel's] comments; he's focused on the season, focused on coming into training camp. We've been interacting with him, and it's been fun and we're really looking forward to getting on the ice with him."

Eichel described contract talks as ongoing last week during the NHL Player Media Tour. "It's just trying to find the right fit for both of us," he said.

An eight-year extension for Eichel likely would compare with the contracts signed this offseason by Edmonton Oilers forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and Nashville Predators center Ryan Johansen.

Video: Jack Eichel is named No. 37 on the list

McDavid, 20, selected by the Oilers one spot ahead of Eichel in the 2015 draft, signed an eight-year, $100 million contract extension ($12.5 million average annual value) on July 5 that begins next season. Johansen, 25, signed an eight-year, $64 million contract ($8 million AAV) with the Predators as a restricted free agent July 28. Draisaitl, 21, signed an eight-year, $68 million contract ($8.5 million AAV) with the Oilers as a restricted free agent Aug. 16.

Eichel would become a restricted free agent on July 1.

"It's an important deal for the organization and an important deal for Jack," Botterill said. "I will say is that I still think the conversations are very cordial and very positive, and when you have both parties wanting to get a deal done, I do believe eventually a deal will get done."

Eichel, who turns 21 on Oct. 28, has 113 points (48 goals, 65 assists) in 142 regular-season NHL games. Last season, after recovering from a high ankle sprain that kept him out for the first 21 games, he had 57 points (24 goals, 33 assists) in 61 games.

The Sabres went 33-37-12 (78 points) and finished 15th in the Eastern Conference last season after going 35-36-11 (81 points), 14th in the East, in 2015-16.

Eichel will try to help the Sabres reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2010-11. Last season led to the firing of GM Tim Murray, replaced by Botterill, and coach Dan Bylsma, replaced by Phil Housley.

Botterill also said there is no rush to naming a captain prior to the start of the regular-season opener against the Montreal Candiens at KeyBank Center on Oct. 5.

Video: Discussing Jack Eichel's next contract

Brian Gionta was captain since October 2014, but he completed a three-year, $12.75 million contract last season and remains an unrestricted free agent.

"It's a scenario where [Housley] and I have had discussions about this already, but we're getting to know the players and the dynamics [of the team]," Botterill said. "We've talked to [the players], but we haven't seen how it has all meshed together yet. It'll be a scenario where we'll continue to watch that throughout preseason, but there's no time frame on when we'll name a captain. We'll see how things progress."

Gionta told Sportsnet on July 12 that if he didn't return to Buffalo that there were several other good candidates to serve as captain.

"You've got [Ryan] O'Reilly, [Kyle] Okposo," Gionta said. "Eichel is pretty young, but he can handle the load. He's the face of the franchise, so it should be interesting to see what direction they go to find it."

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