Rest easy Buffalo Sabres fans. The prodigal son, Jack Eichel, isn't going anywhere, anytime soon.
Just two days before the start of the Sabres' 2017-2018 season, the 20-year-old forward agreed to an eight-year contract extension worth an annual average valuation of $10 million per season. The team announced the deal Tuesday evening.
But wait, there's more. According to KHL Insider Aivis Kalninš, the Sabres are also expected to name Eichel the teams next captain.
Selected with the second overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, Eichel has lived up to the hype, scoring 113 points (48G, 65A) in 142 career games. Last year, despite missing the Sabres first 21 games of the season, Eichel surpassed his point total from his rookie season, averaging nearly a point per game (57 points in 61 games).
Those totals put Eichel in elite company, ranking 12th in the NHL in points per game.
How's that to start the season?
Last year Jack Eichel was hurt the day before the first game of the season. Fast forward a year, and Eichel has Western New York buzzing for a completely different reason.
As far as the contract goes, I love the deal for the Sabres. $10 million is a lot of money, there is no denying that -- but Jack Eichel is worth it. He's only 20-years-old and has already proven, when healthy, to be on the most dynamic forwards in the league.
I've said it once and I'll say it again, Eichel, if healthy, is going to have an outstanding season. Last season, on a recovering ankle, Eichel nearly scored a point per game. I think he will surpass that this year.
In regards to the captaincy, Eichel is the face of the franchise and with this new deal, is going to be around for a long time. He's proven to be a leader on and off the ice in his first two years with the Sabres. He will grow into the role as he continues to mature and become a better leader over time. Having teammates like former Sabres captain Jason Pominville and Ryan O'Reilly in the locker room will help Eichel settle into the role.
In Western New York, sports fans are wired as a community to think something will go wrong. Whether it's the Bills, Sabres, or whatever else, there is always that lingering voice in the back of fans' heads wondering if something will get screwed up.
In this case the complete opposite happened. The Sabres locked in their franchise player for nearly a decade, and at a fair price.
Exhale, and relax. Eichel will wear a Sabres sweater for the next eight years.