NHL Notes: Sabres' Eichel gets $80M deal; Capitals' Wilson banned 4 games

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NHL Notes: Sabres' Eichel gets $80M deal; Capitals' Wilson banned 4 games

BUFFALO, New York -- The Buffalo Sabres have reached an agreement to sign their franchise player, Jack Eichel, to an NHL-maximum eight-year, $80 million contract.

The team announced the signing on its twitter account on Tuesday night in a deal reached two days before Buffalo hosts the Montreal Canadiens in the season opener.

Eichel is entering the final year of his three-year entry level contract and only eligible to become a restricted free agent next summer.

The deal was reached after talks had cooled for much of the past six weeks.

Eichel was the second player selected in the 2015 draft, one spot behind Edmonton's Connor McDavid. The Oilers' captain signed an eight-year, $100 million contract extension in July, making him the NHL's top-paid player on a per-season basis.

In averaging $10 million per season, Eichel ties Los Angeles Kings star Anze Kopitar on the NHL list of annual average salaries (see full story).

Capitals: Wilson suspended 4 games for boarding
ARLINGTON, Va. -- The NHL has suspended Washington Capitals right winger Tom Wilson for four games for boarding St. Louis Blues forward Sammy Blais.

The league's department of player safety announced the suspension Tuesday.

Wilson will forfeit $97,561 in salary. Even though this is the first regular-season suspension of his NHL career, Wilson is considered a repeat offender after being suspended for two preseason games for a late hit on Blues rookie Robert Thomas last month.

The 23-year old will miss games against the Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins. He'll be eligible to return Oct. 13 against the New Jersey Devils.

Wilson said Tuesday he's a player who finishes big checks, which makes him the subject of attention (see full story).

Penguins: Murray ready to take mantle from Fleury
PITTSBURGH -- Matt Murray jokes he can't help but do a double take whenever he sees a No. 30 Pittsburgh Penguins jersey in public.

"I still think it's a family member or something," the Penguins goaltender said with a laugh.

Hard to blame him. Two years ago, Murray was still in the minors, a 21-year-old long on promise but whose time as the heir apparent to Marc-Andre Fleury was still off somewhere in the gauzy distance.

Like seemingly everything else in Murray's burgeoning career, the future arrived ahead of schedule. Funny how winning a pair of Stanley Cup championships speeds things up.

When Murray skates onto the PPG Arena ice on Wednesday night for the season opener against St. Louis, he'll do it for the first time as a true No. 1 NHL goalie. No more of the "Murray vs. Fleury" debates that raged across social media and talk radio -- but never in the Penguins dressing room -- during their professional if occasionally uncomfortable coexistence.

The gig is Murray's. For now and for later.

Even with his name stenciled on his sport's most prized possession -- twice -- he's in no mood for a victory lap.

"I think there's always something to prove," Murray said. "Nothing's given to you in this league that's for sure. You've got to keep your foot on the gas pedal and that's what I intend to do. I don't feel like I've earned anything."

Flyers stock watch: Oskar Lindblom nearly a lock, Dale Weise in danger

Flyers stock watch: Oskar Lindblom nearly a lock, Dale Weise in danger

Now at the midway point of the preseason.

Which players have seen their stock rise and fall?

Stock up

Oskar Lindblom
He’s carried over the confidence from the prospect game straight into training camp. Playing with Corban Knight and Scott Laughton, Lindblom scored two goals and added an assist which may have solidified his place on the opening night roster. In addition, Lindblom has also shown he can be reliable on special teams, logging 7:34 of power play and penalty kill time in Wednesday’s 6-4 win (see story).

Scott Laughton
Versatile and prepared, Laughton has been a workhorse along the boards and on the penalty kill, playing physically while also chipping in some offense. He's played left and right wing throughout the preseason and has looked comfortable on both sides which will give Dave Hakstol options in October.

Anthony Stolarz
I had very little expectations from Stolarz considering how little he’s played coming off knee surgery last September. After Alex Lyon went down in pregame warmups, Stolarz stifled the Islanders Tuesday at Barclays Center stopping 31 of 32 shots. He’s putting in the diligent work during practice and now he’s re-entered the conversation as a solid backup to Carter Hart, not just with the Phantoms this season, but down the road with the Flyers.

Stock down

Dale Weise
You don't expect a nine-year veteran to make glaring turnovers that lead to goals and prime scoring chances, but that’s what Weise gave us Wednesday against the Rangers. Hakstol presented Weise with a prime opportunity, playing alongside Claude Giroux and Mikhail Vorobyev, and while he was able to chip in a powerplay goal, the costly errors are much more glaring.

Mike Vecchione
As a 25-year-old, I expected Vecchione to be one of the experienced rookies to come in and make a statement, but he's had a very quiet camp. There was an outside opportunity to make the team as a fourth-line forward, but that won’t happen now. Vecchione’s only preseason action was just over ten minutes in the opener at the Wells Fargo Center, and we’ve seen several younger players pass him up on the depth chart.

Christian Folin
If injuries to Andrew MacDonald and Travis Sanheim persist, the Flyers will need Folin to step in and provide some minutes. Playing 20-plus on back-to-back nights, Folin turned in a solid game against the Islanders but was exposed against the Rangers. He was caught out of position for a goal and spent much of the third period chasing a quicker Rangers team in the defensive zone. Perhaps some of that was playing with 18-year-old Yegor Zamula. Still, there’s concern if Folin has to play that much in the regular season.

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Why doesn't Flyers' Ivan Provorov get more respect?

Why doesn't Flyers' Ivan Provorov get more respect?

Once the NHL moves past the first week of the free-agency flurry, there’s typically very little to write about.

Which is why you’ll come across a myriad of lists. It helps fill the space of a TV show, a newspaper or a website from the end of summer until the start of training camp.

This year, the NHL Network made much ado about its compilation as it ranked the top 20 forwards, top 20 defensemen and top 10 goaltenders in the league right now.

Clearly, any list is always open for debate and where star players are slotted is a subjective argument, but an outright omission should raise some eyebrows.

And that’s where Ivan Provorov comes in.

The Flyers' defenseman received an honorable mention and was passed over in favor of more offensive-minded blueliners like Zach Werenski (12th), Torey Krug (16th) and Charlie McAvoy (19th). Even Provorov’s teammate Shayne Gostisbehere checked in at 17th on the list.

That wasn’t the only snub for Provorov, who also didn’t crack Sporting News' top 25 players under the age of 25.

From head-scratching to wanting to pull your hair out.

In two seasons, Provorov has yet to miss an NHL game while also finishing top 15 in ice time. While not exactly known for offense, Provorov also became the first player 21 or younger to lead NHL defensemen (three-way tie) in goals since Erik Karlsson totaled 19 in 2011-12.

In a league now defined and measured for its high-end speed and dazzling skill, Provorov is more of a throwback to the days of steady and reliable. He doesn’t possess a wow factor that leaves you asking, “Did he really do that?” as you rewind your DVR.

Captain Claude Giroux may have summed up Provorov’s skill set perfectly on the first day of training camp.

“You watch him play one game and you’re like, ‘Oh, this kid’s pretty good,’ but if you watch him every game, you’re like, ‘This kid is really good,’" Giroux said. "He does it every night. The things he does, little details and people that really watch the game and see what goes on.

“He’s always in good position, always breaking up plays and making that first pass."

Of course, the things Giroux describes don’t exactly jump off a stat sheet. If Provorov quarterbacked the Flyers' No. 1 power-play unit, then outsiders would likely be drawing comparisons to Mark Howe, but it’s simply too convenient to compile a list in which the starting point is how many points a defenseman scores. 

Without sitting down and charting each and every shift, it would be difficult to consistently measure a defenseman’s play in his own end., known for its elaborate database of statistics, has devised a defensive points shares (DPS) category, or an estimate of the number of points contributed by a player because of his defense. No surprise L.A. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty was tops on that list with a 7.3 total. Provorov, impressively, was 10th at 5.3 and tied with a pair of former Norris Trophy winners Victor Hedman and Zdeno Chara.

If you ask Provorov, he doesn’t need a list to climb, only a steep mountain somewhere in the Russian countryside. This summer, Provorov took his offseason workouts to a new height while saying he actually trained harder than he did a year ago, despite separating his shoulder in the playoffs.

“A year older and I wanted to take a step forward," he said. "I’m going to try to do that this year."

And if Provorov does what he says, try keeping him off that list next summer.

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