Anytime that a franchise-altering center is available, you do everything you can to see if you can trade for them. That is especially true if you are the Columbus Blue Jackets given their dire need for help at center ice.
Normally there would be excitement and anticipation knowing that a team is trying to pull off a big move to make a statement. However in this case, as good as Jack Eichel is, the Blue Jackets are in no position to try to trade for him.
Too Many Issues to Overcome
The Blue Jackets and GM Jarmo Kekalainen are doing their “due diligence” in talking with GM Kevyn Adams and the Buffalo Sabres. When a talent like Eichel becomes available, you have to call. Perhaps there is a path to landing him.
But a deep look at this situation and the questions surrounding Eichel reveals that the Blue Jackets are not in an ideal spot to pull off a move of this caliber. It’s certainly not the end of a potential Eichel deal to the Blue Jackets but it would be shocking if it did happen in these current conditions.
As we outlined the other day when we talked about the Blue Jackets and Sam Reinhart, it makes no sense to acquire Eichel or Reinhart if they’re in a rebuild. The fit is simply not there given where the Blue Jackets seem to be heading. But even if the fit was better, it’s still questionable at best to try to acquire Eichel.
Let’s now look at this situation from the perspective of different questions surrounding Eichel and a potential trade. As you’ll quickly see, the cons outweigh the pros.
Eichel’s Medical Situation
This perhaps is the most important question of all. It’s well documented that there is a disagreement between Eichel and the Sabres when it comes to the course of treatment for his neck. The Sabres believe in more conservative methods. Eichel wants to pursue a different kind of surgery. This has led to distrust between the two sides.
But imagine being in the Blue Jackets’ shoes for a minute. They have to decide if pursuing Eichel is worth it given his injury. Would there be a disagreement about treatment between player and new team? If surgery does ultimately happen, when would that surgery happen and how much of the season would he miss? And if the surgery Eichel wants doesn’t happen, would there be an immediate rift that would be similar to what’s going on now?
Apparently teams are unable to speak to Eichel directly about the situation. With so much uncertainty about this situation and not being able to speak to him yet, there should be natural hesitation to move forward until there is more clarity.
This is a $50 million decision for the team that ultimately trades for Eichel. Given where the Blue Jackets seem to be heading, that’s not a gamble worth pursuing. But even if there was clarity that came out later, other things make this a tough situation for the Blue Jackets to pursue.
Blue Jackets Lack What The Sabres Are Looking For
The Sabres are asking for a king’s ransom in any trade for Eichel. To start, a young 1C has to be included in a package. The Blue Jackets do not have that asset to give. Unless they really sweeten the pot with other assets, that should put an end to any trade conversation between these two teams.
Yet even if the Blue Jackets had that 1C piece, they’d have to give up 4-5 other premium assets including the fifth pick in this year’s draft, a roster player, prospects and maybe even another high pick. Can they really afford to make that kind of trade?
So you get the 1C you’re looking for but you give up assets that could be huge in the years to come. I can’t see the Blue Jackets trading the fifth pick. Plus Eichel would go to a similar situation in Columbus where he was just in with the Sabres. The Blue Jackets have too many needs on their roster to be considered a contender at this time. Giving up that many pieces is not good business. They can improve by other trade without giving up those kind of assets.
The Good & Bad of Eichel
If the Blue Jackets did acquire Eichel, he’d be one of the most talented players to ever wear their uniform. He can do a lot of things on offense that would instantly make them better assuming his health. The power play would get a huge boost. The rest of the lineup would get a boost because defenses would have to account for Eichel. So there is no question about his talent and what he could bring.
But you do have to ask yourself why Eichel could never get the Sabres out of the basement? He put up some good numbers given his situation. But as a captain and leader of the team, they were never able to get things going in a positive direction. Whether it was poor decisions on trades or the current culture in Buffalo, Eichel has yet to demonstrate he can make the players on his team better.
If you’re the Blue Jackets, is that a risk you’re willing to take? If things continue to go south on a new team, will he be unhappy again?
There are just too many issues and questions surrounding Eichel for this to make sense for the Blue Jackets. The key thing in all this is the current price.
The Sabres want 4-5 premium pieces and the Blue Jackets would have trouble meeting this price. The only thing that might happen at some point is teams could deem the price is too high. Then the Sabres would have to lower their price. Only then would it make sense for the Blue Jackets to get into serious talks. But with so many teams that would love to add a talent like Eichel, I do not see the price going down. Someone seems destined to meet the asking price.
The Blue Jackets would love to add Eichel but they are in no position to pursue him. They have way too many other issues of more importance that must be addressed if they hope to get back on the right path.
The Blue Jackets must pass on Eichel. It’s best for business.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.