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Sabres' Botterill optimistic about Eichel talks, hockey team as camp nears

When it comes to Jack Eichel and his next contract, it's easy to throw numbers around. He can sign an eight-year extension. He figures to get somewhere between $8 million and $10 million per season.

What's not easy is determining the exact value. That's why there's no deal yet.

Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill is confident there will be one.

"Both parties would really like to get a deal done," Botterill said Monday night. "Do we have a deal done? No, not yet, but we continue to be very cordial in our discussions.

"It has to be a situation where both groups are very comfortable with where the number's at and where the term is at and are excited about continuing this relationship."

Basically, both sides want to make sure they get it right.

"It is an important deal for the organization," Botterill said in HarborCenter. "It's an important deal for Jack. All I will say is I still think conversations are very cordial, very positive from that standpoint.

"When you have both parties wanting to get a deal done, I do believe eventually a deal will get done."

Although an extension would ease the minds of Sabres fans, there's really no rush. Eichel will report to training camp with the rest of the team Thursday, and he'll finish the last season of an entry-level deal that pays $925,000, plus bonuses.

"I think you've seen Jack's comments: He's focused on the season. He's focused on coming into training camp," Botterill said. "In all our interaction with him, it's been a lot of fun, and we're really looking forward to getting on the ice with him.

"Like I said, our relationships with his agents continue to be very positive, and we're hoping to get a deal done here shortly."

Botterill was upbeat during his chat, mostly because he'd just watched a hockey game. He's been busy with interviews and paperwork since being hired in May. The Sabres' Prospects Challenge allowed him to get back into a rink. The quick transition from training camp to exhibitions to the regular season will keep him in an arena.

"It's very, very exciting," he said. "You go through a lot of changes in the offseason. You're trying to get staff members in here. You're trying to get the families moved to Buffalo. There's chaos. You have all these meetings we're trying to plan here.

"What we were just excited about this week is you finally have players here. Finally, instead of talking about hypotheticals, you see things. You've got players on the ice and, 'Oh, he performed better than anticipated,' or, 'We have to work with that player a little more to pick up his speed.'

"You're finally talking hockey again."

One of the talks has been what to do with the Sabres' captaincy. Brian Gionta wasn't re-signed, so Botterill and coach Phil Housley have to hand out the "C."

"Phil and I have had discussions about that already, but we're getting to know the players and sort of the dynamics," the GM said. "We've talked to them, but we haven't seen how that has sort of all meshed together here. It will 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."

Fresh mentality helps Sabres' Bailey hit the reset button

One thing Botterill learned from the Prospects Challenge is there will be fierce competition in training camp. Although the Sabres lost, 5-3, to Pittsburgh in the title game, their big names looked good. Forwards Justin Bailey and Hudson Fasching were beasts. Defenseman Brendan Guhle showed he has NHL talent.

The next step is to prove it against NHL players.

"You get to a main camp, there's going to be a lot of competition for spots," Botterill said. "That's what we're trying to create here is competition throughout the lineup.

"What I'm excited about starting camp is to get some of our veteran players back in the mix here. I've talked a lot with Phil. Phil's very open to trying to give young players opportunities right out of training camp, see how they mix in with some of our veteran players, and we'll see how things progress over the next couple of weeks."

Botterill had good news regarding forward Alex Nylander. The first-round pick from 2016 suffered a lower-body injury during the Prospects Challenge and missed the final two games, but he should be fine for camp.

"You could tell that he's worked very hard in the offseason back in Sweden," Botterill said. "We saw it in development camp. We saw it through his testing scores when we first got here, so hopefully it's a scenario where, Hey, let's take care of it now so it's not a nagging thing throughout the year.

"I can't tell you 100 percent that he'll be ready for main camp, but we're very optimistic."

The Wraparound: Pittsburgh 5, Sabres 3

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