Jack Eichel's first night as a long-term Buffalo Sabre was spent at dinner with his parents, quietly getting ready for the opening game of his third NHL season. It marked the end of a whirlwind Wednesday that saw the 20-year-old sign an eight-year, $80 million extension with the team.
"You kind of just put it behind you," Eichel said after Thursday's morning skate in KeyBank Center. "Obviously it's in the rearview mirror now. It was a tremendous day for me and really humbling for my family and exciting. You know, a lot of emotions. Not really too much time to celebrate with the game here today."
According to multiple sources, Eichel's deal has some lockout protection built into the contract. The eight-year agreement has a cap hit of $10 million for each season. In six of those years, the entire amount is paid in base salary.
But in two of those seasons -- 2020-21 and 2022-23 -- Eichel is getting a base salary of $2.5 million and a signing bonus of $7.5 million. That's a clear hedge on a potential lockout and gives Eichel's wallet big protection. The reason is that if the owners lock the players out, players still receive all their bonus money and only lose salary.
The NHL's collective bargaining agreement between the players and owners is binding through September, 2019. Either side can opt out at that point and start to negotiate a new deal through the '19-20 season. If no deal is struck, the 2020-21 campaign would be in peril -- but Eichel would be paid on the above provision that several other players have also signed for during negotiations.
The same applies to 2022-23, which could also be in jeopardy if a new deal isn't negotiated via the opt out. The current CBA, which was adopted to end the lockout in January, 2013, runs until Sept. 15, 2022.
Edmonton's Connor McDavid, for instance, has a much more bonus-laden structure to his eight-year, $100-million contract. In '20-21, McDavid is getting just $1 million as a base and $12.5 million in bonuses. Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos, who signed an eight-year, $68-million deal just before becoming a free agent in 2016, is earning just $1 million in salary in each year of his deal.
Eichel, of course, didn't make the season opener against the Montreal Canadiens last year due to the high ankle sprain he suffered on the eve of the opener against the Habs. He was clearly relieved this morning that there will be no more contract talk in advance of this visit by Montreal.
"I’m just excited to play a hockey game tonight," he said. " I mean, you see all the T-shirts on the seats and I'm just looking forward to playing in front our home crowd. I'm sure they will have a lot of fans here too, so it should be a good atmosphere. I’m just excited to play hockey again."