by Georgia McCann
This offseason has been tough on the Buffalo Sabres and fans.
Recently, star forward and then team captain Jack Eichel publicly expressed his desire to leave, stating the Sabres reluctance to allow him to have artificial disk replacement surgery in his neck, in favour of Buffalo’s preferred fusion procedure, was the biggest factor.
Since then the situation between Buffalo and Eichel has entered a death spiral. The USA superstar has been stripped of his captaincy, will likely miss the Olympics and rumours are circulating that if Eichel doesn’t play this season, the Sabres will toll his contract.
Essentially this slides the contract, handcuffing their prize asset to the team for another year and pushing Eichel’s agreed no movement clause to 2023.
The quite honestly brutal actions of the Upstate New York side shows they feel they currently hold all the cards. As such, they are asking for quite a pretty penny, believed to be a package of picks, prospects and NHL regulars, along with ruling performance conditions out of any deal.
Multiple executives have also anonymously confirmed his medical records have not been disclosed, making it hard to gauge for teams who want to know if they would be willing to trade for him and allow his desired surgery to be performed.
Therefore, despite Eichel being believed to go anywhere in the NHL to escape Buffalo, it seems his destinations are limited.
That said, limited is not nowhere and the Massachusetts native is still an elite talent, sparking the interest of a substantial amount of teams. Let’s have a look at which clubs these may be and the likelihood of them securing his services.
DISCLAIMER – no team has outright confirmed if they would agree to Jack Eichel undergoing the artificial disk replacement. The below proposals are all done on the assumption they would allow Eichel to choose his preferred surgery.
NEW YORK RANGERS
The Rangers have recently been the team most strongly linked to Eichel and it is easy to see why.
The Blueshirts’ prospect line is long and fruitful, with with talent at almost every position. There are a decent number of middle six forwards and bottom pairing defencemen New York could offer their cross state rivals.
It is suggested that even goaltender Alexandar Georgiev is reportedly open to leaving Madison Square Garden and could be a trade chip, with Buffalo not exactly blessed between the pipes.
Talks were reportedly open between the two clubs and the Rangers seem to believe Eichel could truly be their first line centre for the next few years.
On the flip side, they also believe Buffalo are asking too much and talks have since cooled. However, a trade between the Sabres and New York could end up as a win for all concerned so do not rule it out.
LOS ANGELES KINGS
Whilst not as rich in NHL ready players as the Rangers, the Kings are instead wealthy with prospects. With Buffalo in ultra rebuild, you would have to think raiding LA’s farm has to have been considered.
A trade to California would still mean Eichel would be unlikely to taste playoff action for a while.
However, the Pacific is easily the weakest division and once their top prospects join the big club permanently, Los Angeles will not be too far off from returning to the fold. Definitely a more interesting and fun project than Buffalo’s rebuild.
Now the Wild have signed Kirill Kaprizov they need to find him a centre. Of course, they do have Marco Rossi coming up, plus the likes of Joel Eriksson Ek and Victor Rask are available.
However, whilst Rossi could potentially become a first line centre, the Wild need one now. Jack Eichel would easily fill that role.
In terms of what Buffalo would want in return, it is possible Minnesota would be willing to part ways with a number of their regulars to acquire Eichel.
However the Sabres may be more interested in one of the Wild’s many stand out prospects.
It is highly likely they may have to relinquish one of the aforementioned Rossi, winger Matthew Boldy or goaltender Jesper Wallstedt and a first round pick.
It is difficult to see Minnesota being agreeable to this, who see their squad improving everyday without Eichel and it is here where talks may have already crumbled.
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
On July 27th, The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy tweeted the Sabres’ asking price was Reilly Smith, prospect Peyton Krebs, defenseman Nicolas Hague and a first round pick.
Not a bad package at the time, but Vegas rejected the proposal and talks initially seem to have cooled.
However, to push for that elusive Stanley Cup that this young franchise so desperately want, an elite centre is an absolute must. With the Sabres resuming talks with teams, could their proposal be agreed if ever so slightly tweaked?
Vegas have shown themselves to be consistently high achievers, with top players not only choosing the Golden Knights, but settling in nicely.
From Eichel’s point of view, landing in Nevada could be the type of win-win situation he has yet to encounter in his career.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
The Blue Jackets truly needed a first line centre last season to join Pierre-Luc Dubois down the middle. Instead they were forced into trading Dubois, who made it clear he did not want to stay in Columbus.
Although admittedly they got a fairly decent return from the Winnipeg Jets in the form middle-six centre Jack Roslovic and elite winger Patrik Laine, an elite centre and middle-six winger would have been better.
Since the trade however, Columbus have been savvy. They have a strong pool of prospects, featuring the likes of Kent Johnson and Yegor Chinakov, plus up to eight draft picks banked for this year, with potentially three picks in the first two rounds.
Never afraid to be bold, the Blue Jackets could roll the dice again and this time send a selection of high picks and prospects to Buffalo, bringing Eichel to Ohio.
It is very possible that Buffalo demand a top-six forward and a top pairing defenceman, which Columbus may not be in a position to agree to.
However, with what they have to offer, they absolutely have to be considered a wildcard in this saga.
Recent rumours have been swirling that Eichel’s hometown team are keeping tabs on him. The former Boston University star would fit with the Bruins like a glove, who really could do with another centre after losing David Krejci.
I’m also certain the Massachusetts native would relish the opportunity to win a Stanley Cup for his home team.
What Buffalo thinks is a different story. Boston would likely be willing to move a 1st rounder, possibly two, but their prospect pool isn’t deep.
There are of course a number NHL ready players who could spark the Sabres interest. However, Boston would likely be disappointed at having give up at least one of these and may want to see if Charlie Coyle can step up to fill Krejci’s skates.
Controversially, the Flames are certain they are only one or two players away from winning the Stanley Cup. One of those is an elite centre, such as….Jack Eichel.
As with the Bruins, there is the possibility Calgary would trade a first rounder. Additionally, there are rumours that the Flames are open to offers for star winger Johnny Gaudreau.
This could see Buffalo asking for the New Jersey born winger to be included in a package. How agreeable the Flames would be to this would be interesting – if they are it could mean the Sabres are open to less picks or prospects being included than most deals on offer.
It is hard to see Jack Eichel not acknowledging at least some of the positives about a trade to the Kraken. He gets pretty far from Buffalo, allowing him to live in the one of the major cities located in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
He would have the opportunity to start afresh at a completely new franchise. He also would not have to worry about no longer being the face of a team or being pushed to the second line, as he would still be the best forward.
By acquiring Eichel and also offering to take perhaps Jeff Skinner’s albatross of a contract, Seattle could negotiate to look at sending perhaps just depth and highly placed picks of which they have plenty and Buffalo need.
It is unclear if Seattle are interested or have made an approach. What is clear is the Kraken’s ownership and front office would see those ‘Eichel 9’ jerseys fly off the racks, something always welcomed by a new team in a new city.