Kings Should Target Sabres’ Reinhart, Not Eichel

Jack Eichel’s name has been in the rumour mill for months now. Last summer, he said, “I’m fed up with the losing, and I’m fed up and I’m frustrated… I’m a competitor, I want to win every time I go out onto the ice, I want to win the Stanley Cup every time I start a season.” Despite being one of the most talented centres in the league, the Buffalo Sabres have been abysmal in all six seasons he’s been there. However, the Sabres acquired former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall via free agency in an attempt to bolster the team’s forward core and to give Eichel an immensely talented winger to skate with. Hall underperformed in Buffalo and was dealt to Boston, where he quickly revived his career.

Jack Eichel Buffalo Sabres
Jack Eichel (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Recently, Hall said, “there were really dark days this year in Buffalo,” and in response to Eichel’s medical situation said, “ultimately, Jack has to worry about himself.” Eichel has insinuated that the Sabres don’t want him to get surgery for a herniated disk in his neck.

With my injury there’s been a little bit of, I guess, one side, my own camp on one page and the team on another…That’s been tough. We’re kind of going back and forth a bit on the best way to go about it, treatment, so there’s been a few conversations but more so just about getting healthy moving forward.

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Eichel also said, “So yeah, I think there’s been a bit of a disconnect I think from the organization and myself. It’s been tough at times.” All of this has led to his name once again being in trade rumours, and NHL Network Radio even tweeted this:

The Los Angeles Kings have the second-best odds of snagging the disgruntled Sabre as per NHL Network Radio. Frank Seravalli said:

“I can tell you that the Kings had a cursory conversation before the deadline with the Buffalo Sabres about acquiring Jack Eichel, and I expect that to pick up in a big way this summer.”

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This has caused LA to become one of the most discussed landing spots for Eichel. However, the Kings would be better suited to targeting his teammate Sam Reinhart.

Eichel’s Trade Value Is Too High

In February, I wrote an article detailing why LA can’t afford to pursue Eichel. The key points highlighted in the article still ring true. LA could afford to acquire him right now based on their salary cap space, and he is a bonafide top 10 centre in the NHL. Not everyone agrees with NHL networks rankings, however, he was named the sixth-best center in 2020, which is right around where fan consensus puts him.

This was before his underwhelming campaign in 2020-21, where he scored a measly two goals and added 16 assists in 21 games played. If you factor out his goal-scoring slump and just look at his point totals, 18 points in 21 games isn’t too shabby, although it’s not up to his usual standards. Overall, this season wouldn’t have much of an impact upon his position among the league’s elite centres.

Buffalo Sabres Jack Eichel
Jack Eichel (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

Adding Eichel would instantly help the Kings, owing to his offensive dominance and being a monster at moving the puck. However, acquiring him will come with a steep price. The Kings have built the best prospect pipeline in the league and should be set at centre for years to come with prospects such as Quinton Byfield, Alex Turcotte, Gabriel Vilardi, Tyler Madden, Akil Thomas, Rasmus Kupari and Jaret Anderson-Dolan. That’s without mentioning Anze Kopitar, who is still a top centre in the NHL despite being 33-years-old. Byfield should be an untouchable piece, so LA would have to give up at a minimum Turcotte, another of these centres and a first-round pick in a potential trade. Before anyone comments about this package not including enough, this isn’t an actual proposal, it’s the bare minimum that LA would need to offer to get Buffalo on the phone.

Quinton Byfield LA Kings
Quinton Byfield (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Trading a boatload of the Kings’ future for Eichel just doesn’t make sense, as they are already poised to have a logjam at centre, and they have an elite player at this position presently (Kopitar) and for the future (Byfield and/or Turcotte).

Reinhart Is the Sabre to Target

With all the talk about an Eichel trade, Reinhart’s trade talk has fallen under the radar. In fact, Paul Hamilton of WGR 550 said he’s heard Reinhart would like to play on the west coast. Hamilton told Sportsnet Vancouver that “Reinhart said in his end-of-the-year [media availability] that he’s going on 26. He’s not up for a rebuild. That’s not what he’s looking for. I’ve heard that he wants to be traded to the west coast. That’s where he’s from.” The full audio clip can be listened to via the tweet below.

Reinhart is a much better target for the Kings than Eichel. Although he doesn’t carry Eichel’s superstar status, Reinhart is a great first-line player in his own right. In each of the past four seasons, he has scored 20+ goals. Additionally, he had a 23-goal campaign in 2015-16; he has scored 20+ goals in five out of his six seasons in the NHL, excluding his nine-game stint in 2014-15, when he didn’t play enough games to qualify as a rookie.

His ability to find the back of the net is his biggest asset and it seems to be improving as his goals per game ratio has increased in each of the past three seasons. His offensive ability isn’t just limited to shooting, as he also can dish the puck. His career-high in assists came in 2018-19, where he racked up 43 apples. Although this was his only season with over 30 assists, outside of his rookie campaign and this season (which was a reduced year due to COVID), he’s always hit over 20 assists.

Sam Reinhart Buffalo Sabres
Sam Reinhart (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This season was arguably the best of Reinhart’s career. In 54 games played, he scored 25 goals and added 15 assists for a total of 40 points. His 25 goals tied Joe Pavelski for tenth in the league. Furthermore, Buffalo scored 134 goals this season, therefore, his 40 points mean he contributed for 30% of the team’s total goals, which is an impressive statistic. Although the 25-year-old predominantly lined up as a centre this past season, he had been a right-winger for the previous portion of his career.

In the aforementioned section about Eichel, I stated how the Kings are set to have a logjam at centre. However, this is not the case for wingers. Aside from Arthur Kaliyev and Samuel Fagemo, most of the team’s prospect depth is at centre, blueliners and goaltending. Instead of giving up a gargantuan amount of talent for Eichel, the Kings should acquire Reinhart, whose pricetag will be cheaper and actually fills a team need that the prospect pool doesn’t adequately account for (a winger).

Reinhart Seems Poised to Leave Buffalo

A few days ago Reinhart said:

“No one wants to go through a rebuild, especially into next year, turning 26 at the start of it or close to the start of it… It’s tough not being able to play meaningful games down the stretch… I don’t think anyone wants to go through that… In terms of the future… I’m going to take some time. That stuff’s all going to get figured out when the time comes”

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Reinhart signed a one-year, $5.2-million contract extension last off-season to remain with Buffalo, avoiding arbitration. This means he is a restricted free agent (RFA) this year. However, next season will mark his seventh in the league, and players become UFAs when their contract expires if they are 27 years of age or older or have seven accrued NHL seasons. He clearly doesn’t want to be part of a rebuild, making it unlikely that he will sign a long-term deal with the Sabres, who seem to permanently be rebuilding.

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Would the Sabres want to risk inking him to a one-year deal and seeing him walk? The Sabres’ general manager Kevyn Adams claims he wants to move ahead with “players who want to be here.” Reinhart’s non-committal response when asked about wanting to remain in Buffalo and statements that he doesn’t want to go through a rebuild imply he isn’t a player who “wants to be there.”

LA should utilize this to their advantage and attempt to strike while the iron is hot and acquire the disgruntled, high-end goal scorer. Reinhart would instantly help bolster LA’s winger depth, make an immediate impact on the team, can play centre if needed – and he’s still a young player with years left in the tank.

Stats per Natural Stat Trick and HockeyDB


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