TORONTO -- Leaf Trading Cards announced an exclusive deal with Jack Eichel on Monday that was a surprise to many sections of the memorabilia community. Leaf, based in Dallas, has not been a big player on the hockey market and the NHL's Rookie Showcase held here today is actually sponsored by card behemoth Upper Deck.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed by Leaf, other than to say it was a multi-year arrangement. The company says it's the richest memorabilia arrangement signed with a first-year player.
"The overall deal size easily eclipses any other deal for a rookie," Brian Gray, CEO of Dallas-based Leaf, told The News by phone. "It's more money than Connor McDavid got (from his deal with Upper Deck), more than Sidney Crosby got his rookie year. That's a pretty bold position for a No. 2 pick to be in. It's a huge deal for a rookie. We believe Eichel can be the best rookie in the class."
"It's been quite the last few months," Eichel said here today. "You dream of this happening and then everything starts to fall into place and you realize it's more of a reality. Things like that happen and people pay you for your autograph. That's pretty neat. I'm excited about my partnership with them. It should be a good future."
Eichel signed an equipment deal with Bauer last month. He said he and agent Peter Fish weren't specifically looking for an exclusive memorabilia deal but it was fairly obvious he could get one like McDavid's.
"The opportunity presented itself and you want to make the most of the ones you get," he said. "It seemed like a good fit for me and for them as well."
Under terms of the deal, Leaf controls autographed cards and memorabilia from Eichel and the arrangement is unique because there is very little product on the market. That's due to the fact Eichel was an NCAA player and would have lost his eligibility by getting paid. Because McDavid played junior hockey, he routinely did autograph signings.
"Jack is unique," Gray said. "He did nothing in college because he can't and his autograph thus really has a premium attached to it."
(One issue however pointed out by SI's Allan Muir: Leaf doesn't have a license to produce NHL cards so trademarks like the Sabres logo have to be erased).
Gray said the deal puts Eichel at the top of his sport for rookie deals much like names such as LeBron James, Cam Newton and Kris Bryant have cashed in to top the charts in the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball, respectively.