BUFFALO, N.Y. â€” The mere hair of a fraction â€” 0.005 to be exact â€” is what separated Sabres forward Jack Eichel from cashing in on a $2 million contract performance bonus clause.
The second-year player would have been due the bonus had he finished among the NHL’s top 10 in points per game production this season, a person with direct knowledge of Eichel’s entry-level contract confirmed to The Associated Press on Monday.
The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the contract clause has not been made public.
Eichel had 57 points in 61 games to finish 11th by averaging 0.934 points per game. Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl edged him out in finishing 10th by averaging 0.939 points per game with 77 points in 82 games. Draisaitl passed Eichel with a goal and assist in the Oilers’ 5-2 season-ending win against Vancouver on Sunday.
CapFriendly.com first reported the clause in Eichel’s contract.
Though he didn’t mention the bonus, Eichel was clearly frustrated in assessing the Sabres’ inconsistent season that extended their franchise-record playoff drought to six seasons.
“Season’s over. That’s all you’re thinking about,” Eichel said, a day after Buffalo closed with a 4-2 loss at Florida. “It’s tough, yeah. You’re not where you want to be.”
And he had a blunt response when reminded he came close to being a point-a-game player.
“I wasn’t though,” Eichel said.
The Sabres selected Eichel with the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft out of Boston University, and after he became the nation’s second freshman to win college hockey’s Hobey Baker Award. He made the immediate jump to the NHL as a 19-year-old and finished with 24 goals and 56 assists in 81 games.
Eichel got off to a difficult start this past season. He missed the first 21 games after spraining his left ankle in practice a day before Buffalo’s season opener against Montreal.
Though still bothered by the ankle injury upon his return in late November, Eichel closed the season with 16 goals and 26 assists for 42 points in his final 40 games.
Eichel believes he can be much better.
“I think that I haven’t scratched the surface of where I can be,” he said. “But I played pretty good at times.”
For more NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey
John Wawrow, The Associated Press