The Buffalo Sabres have signed Jack Eichel to an eight-year, $80 million contract extension, making the 20-year-old the highest-paid player in franchise history.
The team announced the long-rumored extension with its marquee player Tuesday night via a one-minute Twitter video, less than an hour after initial reports of an agreement being imminent surfaced from NBC Sports and TSN.
Eichel will be playing this season in the final year of his entry-level deal, which pays a salary of $925,000 and performance bonuses that can take the deal to around $3.7 million.
Eichel's extension will kick in for the 2018-19 season and run through 2025-26 — when he will be 29 years old. The $10 million cap hit will make him one of the highest-paid players in the NHL.
Edmonton's Connor McDavid, taken first overall and one spot ahead of Eichel in the 2015 draft, signed an eight-year extension worth $100 million in the summer and his cap hit of $12.5 million will be tops in the league starting next season.
The Chicago duo of South Buffalo native Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, and Montreal goaltender Carey Price will all have cap hits of $10.5 million next season. Price signed his eight-year, $84 million deal on July 2 while Kane and Toews inked their deals in July 2014, and then won their third Stanley Cup in six seasons 11 months later.
Los Angeles forward Anze Kopitar, in the early stages of an eight-year, $80 million contract, is the only other player currently listed with a cap hit of $10 million or above for 2018-19.
The Sabres are expected to discuss the deal during a news conference on Wednesday, the first day of the NHL's regular season. The team is scheduled to practice Wednesday morning at 10:45 in HarborCenter. Buffalo opens its season here Thursday night against the Montreal Canadiens in KeyBank Center.
New Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill has been working on the Eichel deal since July 1, the first date the team was allowed to speak to him about an extension.
"It seemed like a long negotiation but it was very professional the whole way. Jason and his staff did a great job," Peter Fish, Eichel's Boston-based agent, said Tuesday night in an email to The Buffalo News. "To be perfectly honest, we had advised Jack to play out the year because we feel that there is a greater potential for more money at the end of this season.
"But it was important for Jack to get a deal done that was friendly for both sides and it would not hamstring the Sabres going forward. He wants to help the Sabres win a championship someday."
The Sabres have yet to name a captain in the wake of the departure of veteran Brian Gionta, who wore the 'C' the last three seasons. It's likely that Eichel will join McDavid as a captain, although Fish confirmed the captaincy was not part of these negotiations.
Want more perspective on how big this deal is? Starting next year, Eichel will have a higher cap hit than superstars like Washington's Alex Ovechkin ($9,538,462) and three-time Pittsburgh Cup champions Evgeni Malkin ($9.5 million) and Sidney Crosby ($8,7 million).
Eichel led the Sabres with 57 points last season, collecting 24 goals and 33 assists in 61 games after missing the first 21 games due to a high ankle sprain suffered in practice on the eve of the season opener. He finished 11th in the NHL with 0.93 points per game and led the league with 4.1 shots per game.
Eichel became just the fourth player in franchise history to lead the Sabres in points before age 21, joining Hockey Hall of Famer Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin and Pierre Turgeon.
Eichel has made it clear multiple times since returning to town in late August that he was not worried about getting a deal done with the Sabres, even if it had to wait until after the season.
The Eichel camp simply wanted to make sure he got his just due. Eichel and his representatives clearly wanted more than the eight-year, $68-million extension Edmonton's Leon Draisaitl signed on Aug. 16, or the eight-year, $64 million contract signed by Nashville's Ryan Johansen on July 28.
Both parties, of course, were interested in seeing if a contract could be agreed upon so that Eichel would not deal with the potential distraction of contract talk, particularly when the Sabres went on the road to Canadian markets.
Eichel's number was not going to approach McDavid, who posted a 100-point season and won the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player last season. McDavid's deal is considered an outlier by virtually everyone in hockey circles, with Draisaitl's contract a baseline that Eichel & Co. felt they should easily surpass.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) October 3, 2017