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Eichel confident he'll sign long-term contract with Sabres

'It's going to get done at some point,' center says

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

STAMFORD, Conn. -- Though it's possible Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel won't agree to a contract extension before this season begins, it's only a matter of time before a deal is done and he can look forward to a long future with the Sabres, he said Thursday.

Eichel, 20, is entering the final season of the three-year, entry-level contract he signed after being selected by the Sabres with the second pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. He confirmed Thursday that his agent, Peter Fish, has been talking with Sabres general manager Jason Botterill about an eight-year extension.

"It's kind of in my agent's hands and Mr. Botterill's," Eichel said during the NHL Player Media Tour. "For me, it's all about just going out and performing, playing well, being a good teammate and trying to help make a positive impact on the Sabres and get the organization back to the playoffs. I want to be in Buffalo. I want to be there for a long time. I want to be there when we're winning. I want to bring that to the city.

"But in terms of the deal, it's going to get done at some point whether it's now or a couple months or next year. Who knows? I just know if my play takes care of itself, then good things will happen."

Video: Discussing Jack Eichel's next contract

Eichel described contract talks as "ongoing," and said, "It's just trying to find the right fit for both of us."

An eight-year extension for Eichel likely would fall in line with the contracts signed this offseason by comparable young forwards. Though he is unlikely to get as much as Connor McDavid, Eichel could receive more money than Ryan Johansen and Leon Draisaitl.

McDavid, 20, selected by the Edmonton 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 Nashville Predators as a restricted free agent July 28, and Draisaitl, 21, signed an eight-year, $68 million contract ($8.5 million AAV) with the Oilers as a restricted free agent Aug. 16.

"Guys are getting an opportunity to fill a bigger role at a younger age, so they're being rewarded with good contracts," Eichel said. "As I've said, however you play and perform and the impact you have on your team should be the difference between how many dollars you get or how many years you get.

"If you're happy where you are and you want to be in that specific position for a while, I think teams are committing to players and players are committing to the teams."

A comparison to McDavid's contract is inevitable. Eichel and McDavid have been linked since the season-long debate leading up to the 2015 draft over which of them would be selected first.

Video: Jack Eichel takes the No. 14 spot

McDavid led the NHL in scoring last season with 100 points (30 goals, 70 assists) and won the Hart Trophy as NHL most valuable player and the Ted Lindsay Award, given to the most outstanding player in the regular season as voted by the members of the NHL Players' Association. He also helped the Oilers go 47-26-9 and reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2005-06.

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

But the Sabres have not improved as much as Eichel or they would have liked. Buffalo went 33-37-12 (78 points) and finished 15th in the 16-team Eastern Conference last season after going 35-36-11 (81 points), 14th in the East, in 2015-16.

"There are some players in the League who are always going to be linked together just because people like comparisons," Eichel said. "People like to compare two things no matter what it is. Obviously, [McDavid's] had some great accomplishments early in his career. For me, it's more about worrying about myself. We're in two different situations, we play in two different areas, so I'm just trying to worry about Jack Eichel and helping Jack Eichel be the best that he can be."

But that doesn't mean Eichel doesn't want to match or surpass what McDavid does.

Video: TOR@BUF: Eichel pots backhand goal on breakaway

"As a competitive guy, you always want to be the best at whatever you do," he said. "I think he does a great job of driving me, motivating me because of the competitiveness."

Eichel's main motivation now is help to the Sabres reach the playoffs for the first time since 2010-11. The disappointment of last season led to the firing of GM Tim Murray, replaced by Botterill, and coach Dan Bylsma, replaced by Phil Housley.

Eichel has been impressed with Botterill and is looking forward to working with Housley, who he met for the first time in Buffalo on Tuesday. He said speculation he had a role in the Murray and Bylsma firings bothered him "a little bit, just because that's not the type of person I am.

"That's not the values that I have. I would never go out of my way to do something like that. But you just kind of learn to deal with it. Just because somebody writes it, that doesn't mean it's true. For me, it was more of just going home [for the summer], refreshing myself a bit, trying to work hard and get ready for the season no matter who was going to be there. It didn't matter to me. I was just going to try to put my best foot forward."

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