The New Jersey Devils are obviously a young rebuilding team with a lot of upside. However, there’s always some sort of speculation as to how the team could potentially speed up their rebuild process in order to get back to the playoffs. It’s worth mentioning that they have a lot of cap space available for the near future. They also have a lot tradable assets, prospects, and picks to go along with that finance.
So, it should go without saying that general manager Tom Fitzgerald has a lot of flexibility in order to help the organization get to the next level. However, what to do with all of those options certainly raises a compelling argument, because there have been a decent amount of reports and rumors circulating around certain players wanting out of their current situations. One of those players is the Buffalo Sabres’ captain Jack Eichel.
The Sabres finished dead last in the entire league with a record of 15-34-7. It has been an unfortunate few years for their organization. It also doesn’t seem like it’s going to end anytime soon, despite them getting the first-overall pick in this year’s draft. Eichel has expressed his frustrations with the organization throughout the course of the season, but trade rumors have officially started to pick up as the draft inches closer. Obviously, with Eichel being a captain and a three-time All-Star as well, the asking price for him will not come cheap.
It has been reported that the Sabres will demand a “significant” roster player, a high-level prospect, and also a 2021 first-round draft selection. Obviously, not every team is capable of meeting those demands; however, the Devils certainly can. There have been discussions as to whether or not Fitzgerald should pursue someone like Eichel in order to help take this team to the next level.
The Ordeal of the Trade
There’s obviously a lot of tradable assets available for the Devils to deal away in this hypothetical Eichel deal. The main factor of this entire ordeal is clearly which “significant roster player” are the Devils willing to part with? There have been some trade scenarios that involve Yegor Sharangovich, Miles Wood, or even P.K. Subban. However, given where each one of those players are currently at in their respective careers, the Sabres will more than likely demand for more.
They could inquire the Devils about potentially giving them either Jack Hughes or Nico Hischier as their trade centerpiece. Due to Hischier’s injury history and also his value as the Devils’ latest head captain, Hughes might seem like the best candidate. Of course, the Devils would also have to throw in one of their best prospects, and also a 2021 first-round pick in order to satisfy the Sabres’ demands.
Hughes had a rough start to his NHL career, however he was able to to turn it around during his sophomore campaign. Despite Eichel being a three-time All-Star, it would still be a tall order to ask Fitzgerald to trade away one of their key, young centerpieces. Because Hughes still has a lot upside to his game, and it seems as though Lindy Ruff has a clear plan for his growth and development. Hughes was able to tally 31 points (11 goals and 20 assists) in 56 appearances this season.
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He improved in every scoring category compared to his rookie year. In fact, with Hughes’ strong relationship with both the front office and coaching staff, I fully anticipate for him to become one of the team’s alternate captains next season. Also, with the Sabres trying to obtain all that they can for Eichel, it can potentially bleed the Devils dry for their future and make them worse in the long run.
Despite Eichel appearing in only 21 games this season due to a lingering neck injury, he was still able to put up solid numbers. If the Devils were to gain traction on this trade, it can safely be assumed that the Sabres would ask for their fourth-overall selection, instead of their late first-round one that they obtained from the New York Islanders this past trade deadline. This would hypothetically give the Sabres two top-five selections, and can also help build their future.
Giving up a high-level prospect, whether it be Alexander Holtz, Dawson Mercer, or Nolan Foote, could also hurt them as well. Because this trade would result in the Sabres obtaining a young, promising player in Hughes and two key pieces in order to help build their foundation. Eichel has just completed his third year of his eight-year, $80 million contract. So, even though he is already signed long-term, there would still be too many voids to fill if this trade came into fruition. The Devils should steer clear of this potential blockbuster deal.
Trey Matthews is currently the play-by-play announcer for the hockey programs at Adrian College. Interestingly, he is also one of the only full-time black hockey play-by-play announcers in the entire country. He has been featured in USA Today, USCHO, & others for his line of work. In addition to that, he’s also the host of a podcast show called Locked On Devils. He first began writing for his high school’s paper at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School & Academy. Aside from hockey, he also covers the Los Angeles Lakers (NBA) for Belly Up Sports.