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Eberle and Islanders haven’t talked contract, but don’t count out extension in New York

Jordan Eberle is one of the most intriguing yet least talked about pending free agents, but we shouldn't count out the possibility that the Islanders pony up the money to keep him in New York.

Jordan Eberle’s pending free agency hasn’t gotten near as much attention as that of Columbus Blue Jackets teammates Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. The Islanders winger isn’t being talked about as a potential trade chip quite as much as Mark Stone and Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators. And Eberle definitely isn’t being talked about in the same breath as the Dallas Stars’ Tyler Seguin, even though the two seem to be facing similar predicaments.

Last week, Seguin noted that despite being less than a year away from unrestricted free agency and eligible to sign a contract extension since July 1, he and the Stars hadn’t really engaged in talks regarding a new pact. And it appears Eberle is in almost the exact same spot. According to NHL.com’s Brian Compton, Eberle said Tuesday he hasn’t “had any conversations with anybody” regarding an extension as he prepares to enter the final season of his current six-year, $36-million contract.

That Eberle isn’t being talked about in the same breath as others maybe isn’t all that surprising. After all, he hasn’t flirted with NHL scoring crowns or packed his trophy case quite like others who are eying up next July as their chance to cash in on the open market. Plus, Eberle’s own pending free agency has been somewhat overshadowed by the Islanders’ other free agency situation. You know, the one where the face of the franchise and longtime captain, John Tavares, bolted to the Toronto Maple Leafs this past July.

Statistically, though, Eberle is one of the more intriguing names set to enter free agency next summer, if he does indeed make it that far. While his base numbers may not be up there with the Seguins or Panarins, Eberle’s 70 goals over the past three seasons place him just outside the top 50 and he has maintained a healthy rate of scoring. In fact, among all forwards with at least half a campaign under their belt since the start of the 2015-16 season, Eberle has put points on the board at a rate similar to that of Matt Duchene, Nikolaj Ehlers, Nazem Kadri and Wayne Simmonds. If you remove the so-called noise that are secondary assists from Eberle’s scoring, too, he’s similar to Stone, Sean Monahan, Jeff Carter and Joe Pavelski in per-60-minute point production at 5-on-5. And Eberle’s ability to find the scoresheet, not to mention his consistency, leaves one wondering what it might cost for the Islanders to retain him.

It almost goes without saying that Eberle is going to command a raise on his current deal, which carries a $6-million cap hit, and he might have the perfect comparable to draw on already.

This summer, following a deadline deal to San Jose and brief playoff run with the Sharks, Evander Kane signed a seven-year, $49-million extension that will see the 27-year-old earn $7 million annually. And while Kane arguably has a higher ceiling given consecutive seasons in which he neared the 30-goal plateau, his overall production has trailed slightly behind that of Eberle over the past three campaigns.

Matter of fact, Kane’s 77 goals and five shorthanded markers are the only notable categories in which he’s been a better offensive performer than Eberle. For instance, Eberle has 157 points and 0.68 points per game over the past three campaigns to Kane’s 132 points and 0.62 points per game. At five-a-side, Eberle leads Kane in overall points, primary points, points per 60 minutes and primary points per 60 minutes across the same three-season stretch, while also boasting more favorable underlying numbers. In addition, Eberle has been the better power-play producer of the two, netting 14 goals and 35 points with the man advantage over the past three seasons, which outshines Kane’s eight goals and 23 PP points. That would suggest that Kane’s contract represents a baseline, at the very least, for what Eberle can command on his next contract.

It wouldn’t be surprising for Eberle to attempt to land an even larger payday, though, considering a $7-million cap hit would actually represent a slight decrease in pay using cap percentages. At the time he signed his current deal in August 2012, Eberle’s $6-million cap hit was valued at 10 percent of the spending limit. A similar deal today would see Eberle paid $7.95 million. And while Eberle is far more experienced now than he was then, he was also fresh off of an outstanding sophomore campaign that saw him score 34 goals and 76 points, totals he’s failed to replicate in the six seasons since.

The good news is that no matter what Eberle is reasonably seeking, the Islanders, who project to have upwards of $30 million in spending room next summer, should have the cap space to keep him if they can convince him to stick around.

Mind you, there may be more than money at play for Eberle, as success might be what he desires most at this point in his career. Eberle had to wait more than 500 games to get his first taste of NHL playoff action, which was a run to the second round of the post-season with the Oilers two seasons ago, but Eberle found himself outside the dance again last year and there aren’t great expectations surrounding the Islanders this coming campaign. Another playoff-less season might give Eberle reason to entertain the option of sacrificing a few dollars for a shot at playing with a winner. And who would blame him?

It’s not unimaginable that Eberle re-ups with the Islanders even if there isn’t tangible success this season, however. Say what you will for the loss of Tavares, but New York has some promising pieces on its roster, particularly Mathew Barzal, who centered Eberle for much of the 2017-18 campaign. The two had excellent chemistry and the opportunity has opened up for Eberle and Barzal to take their act to the top of the lineup with the new-look Islanders. The promise of future success while skating alongside a burgeoning star might be enough to entice Eberle. And if New York is willing to pay up to ensure they don’t lose key free agents in consecutive seasons, there’s no reason why Eberle can’t sign his big-money, free agent deal to remain with the Islanders.

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