Sabres' Jack Eichel focused on hockey, not contract talksSeptember 5, 2017 7:27pm

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Sabres star center Jack Eichel is focused on taking on a larger leadership role, and not concerning himself with contract talks — even it means waiting until next year to sign a new deal.

"I have no problem playing the season out and just trying to earn whatever," Eichel said Tuesday. "We know where we stand. We know where the Sabres stand. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen."

Eichel also reiterated his commitment to staying in Buffalo on a long-term basis. He spoke after taking part in his first on-ice session with numerous teammates in Buffalo a little over a week before the Sabres open training camp.

The 20-year-old is entering the final season of his three-year rookie contract, and in line for what is projected to be a lucrative contract extension.

A person with direct knowledge of talks told The Associated Press last month that both sides have discussed a contract spanning an NHL-maximum eight seasons . The same person told The AP on Tuesday that negotiations haven't stopped since the two sides formally opened talks in June. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because negotiations have been private.

Buffalo selected Eichel with the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft, one spot behind Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid, who earned NHL MVP honors last season. In July, McDavid cashed in by signing eight-year, $100 million contract, which will make him the league's top-paid player on a per-season basis for the start of the 2018-19 season.

Eichel is not surprised he hasn't yet agreed to contract extension, and has instead spent the summer focusing on hockey.

"I looked at my summer as preparation for the biggest year of my career so far," he said. "And that's the way I'll continue to look at it."

This season represents a fresh start for Eichel and the Sabres, who underwent an offseason overhaul after extending their franchise-worst playoff drought to sixth year. General manager Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma were fired in April, and replaced by Jason Botterill and Phil Housley.

Eichel was frustrated over last season's finish, and acknowledged he needs to be better in various aspects, including leadership.

"I look at myself to be one of the leaders on this team, and a guy who's going to push this organization to the next level," he said. "If that's going to be the case, then I've got to be a guy that everyone leans on. And I've got to be better in all aspects of hockey, on or off the ice."

Eichel led Buffalo with 57 points (24 goals, 33 assists) in 61 games last year despite missing the first 21 games of the season with a sprained left ankle.

He is looking forward to playing for Housley, the Hall of Fame defenseman and former Sabres player. Housley intends to introduce a high-tempo, puck-possession approach similar to the Nashville Predators, where he spent the previous four seasons as an assistant coach.

"Pushing the pace, playing with the puck, possessing it, playing fast, all that stuff bodes well for me," said Eichel, who met Housley in person for the first time on Tuesday.

Botterill spent the offseason retooling the Sabres, particularly on defense with the additions of Marco Scandella in a trade with Minnesota , Nathan Beaulieu in a trade with Montreal, and Victor Antipin, who jumped to the NHL last spring after playing in Russia.

The Sabres were also in need of a culture change after owner Terry Pegula criticized the team for lacking discipline, structure and communication upon firing Murray and Bylsma.

"With the way things ended, I think it's good for everyone to have a bit of a fresh start," Eichel said. "That can be a good thing for some guys who obviously didn't have the best relationships the last few years."


For more AP NHL coverage:

Page 1 of 1

More Stories Like This

NHL Players to Watch: Sabres Eichel has plenty to proveBuffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel says he has plenty to prove after "two mediocre seasons," making him among the NHL players to watch this season
Rest of NHL aims to prevent Penguins Stanley Cup three-peatAfter watching the Penguins win the Stanley Cup in back-to-back seasons, the rest of the NHL is focused on trying to prevent a Pittsburgh three-peat
Coyotes preseason game vs. Kings canceled due to bad icePoor ice conditions after a weekend concert has forced the Arizona Coyotes to cancel their scheduled preseason home game Monday night against the Los Angeles Kings
FILE - In this March 20, 2017, file photo, Denver Nuggets' Mason Plumlee, right, and Houston Rockets' James Harden (13) reach for a rebound during the first half of an NBA basketball game, in Houston. Restricted free agent center Mason Plumlee has agreed to return to the Denver Nuggets on a three-year, $41 million deal. His agent, Mark Bartelstein, confirmed the deal Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, to The Associated Press.(AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)
Center Plumlee returning to Nuggets on 3-year, $41M deal
New York Yankees relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman greets teammates after earning a save in the Yankees 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins in New York, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Judge hits No. 44, Chapman saves Yankees' 2-1 win over Twins
Golden Knights rout Canucks 9-4 in first preseason gameTyler Wong scored three times and added an assist in the Vegas Golden Knights' first preseason game to help the NHL's newest franchise rout the Vancouver Canucks 9-4

Related Searches

Related Searches

Most Popular