There should be no confusion about what Jack Eichel wants. He's not looking to take a short-term deal with the Buffalo Sabres to force a trade or get an earlier ride into free agency.
He wants to sign a long-term deal in Buffalo and the word is the sides want it done before training camp starts next month.
"I've made it clear that I want to be a Sabre. I want to be in Buffalo when we start winning," Eichel reiterated in a story published Friday in his hometown paper, the Lowell (Mass.) Sun. "I want to reward the city. It's been two great years. I don't want to go anywhere else."
Eichel is hoping to sign an eight-year extension, the maximum under the NHL CBA, and it would kick in for the 2018-19 season. The two sides are reportedly hung up on how much the Sabres might pay Eichel in the wake of the deals given to Edmonton's Connor McDavid (eight years, $100 million) and Leon Draisaitl (eight years, $68 million).
Eichel is undoubtedly going to become the highest-paid player in Sabres history by a large margin. It stands to reason his camp might be looking for a deal in the eight-year, $80-million range but the Sabres are believed to be balking at a $10 million per year cap hit for the 20-year-old and might be more interested in a figure in the $9 million range.
"We're in the midst of it. It's between my agent and Mr. Botterill," he said , referring to new Sabres general manager Jason Botterill. "I'm just going to work hard this summer. All of that tends to take care of itself. Obviously the contract is important. But for me it's all about the play."
Eichel had 24 goals for the second straight season and finished with 57 points in 61 games after missing the first 21 contests due to his high ankle sprain suffered on the eve of the season opener. The Sabres missed the playoffs for the sixth straight season, resulting in the April dismissals of GM Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma. Botterill was hired in May and he hired Hall of Famer Phil Housley as the new coach following the Nashville Predators' run to the Stanley Cup final in June.
"A bit of change might have been good for us," Eichel said. "We're trying to build a positive culture. It is frustrating. You want to win. The NHL is a hard league and it's very competitive."