Predators Don’t Need & Can’t Afford to Pursue Jack Eichel

The upcoming offseason is going to be a doozy. The big talk coming from the Columbus Blue Jackets is Seth Jones not wanting to re-sign with the team and test free agency. It’s not a surprise that a lot of teams are thinking of bidding on him. He’s a defenseman that is held in high regard across league front offices. Just as I don’t with Jones, I don’t believe that pursuing Jack Eichel should be an item on the to-do list for general manager David Poile.

The Nashville Predators haven’t been listed as one of the teams competing for a spot in the Eichel sweepstakes, but the idea has popped up around Predators channels on social media platforms. It’s an interesting thought experiment, but it can and has gotten to the point of over-exaggeration without a complete understanding of what it could cost the team. Luckily, I’ll be going over all of it!

The Farm System

The one thing that the Buffalo Sabres are looking to do is boost their prospect pool’s profile. With a player like Eichel on the market, it’s no secret that they’ll be looking to get an A+ prospect as the top asset. The Los Angeles Kings were a contender for him, but Buffalo’s asking price started with Quinton Byfield, so it’s obviously a dealbreaker. The same thing was rumored for the New York Rangers. Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, and even Norris trophy finalist Adam Fox were thrown around in rumors. It’s a very steep hill to climb in terms of who’s being dealt, but those teams can at least “afford” to lose a top prospect or two. The Predators don’t, as their prospect pool is around the middle of the pack.

So what could a realistic proposition for the Predators look like? It starts with one of Yaroslav Askarov, Philip Tomasino, or possibly both. Either way, the offer begins with one of them, and they’re crucial to the Predators’ future, so I highly doubt Poile looks into dealing one of them. The farm system flat out isn’t good enough to appease the Buffalo management into seriously considering moving Eichel, so right off the bat, we have problems. And even if you did want to give up Askarov and Tomasino, you’re losing arguably a generational goaltender with boatloads of raw talent and a supremely skilled center that could very well be an 80-point player in the right system. The idea on the surface doesn’t make sense for either club.

Team Russia Yaroslav Askarov
Russia’s goalie Yaroslav Askarov in action during Euro Hockey Tour between Russia and Czech Republic on February 14, 2021 (Photo by ANDREAS HILLERGREN/TT NEWS AGENCY/AFP via Getty Images)

Not only would the Predators have to give up one or both of Askarov and Tomasino, but because they lack the talent that other farm systems possess, they would have to give up a few more assets. The proposal most likely includes a defensive prospect, whether that be someone like Marc Del Gaizo or Semyon Chistyakov. The Sabres could even realistically ask for David Farrance if they don’t feel like taking Tomasino. Askarov and Farrance in the package is just the beginning, though, as Egor Afanasyev or Luke Evangelista could be the third player. Then, they’ll probably want a solid roster player and some picks, including this year’s first-rounder.

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It’s obvious why Buffalo is asking so much. Their superstar player wants out, and after the Taylor Hall debacle, they want to milk as much out of the possible trade targets as possible. For the Predators to do this kind of deal would mean that the prospect pool crashes down to the bottom of the league. We’re just getting started too.

Money Problems

Eichel is getting paid $10 million to sit and rot in Buffalo. It’s a hefty contract, but one that some teams afford to put on their payroll. Unfortunately, the Predators are not one of them. With an already colossal investment in Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen, there’s no way for the team to take on that contract and have another massively paid center and one that has an injury history. The front office still has to find a way to give Filip Forsberg his payday and give Mattias Ekholm a fair share of the cap. Not only do they have to extend those two players, but Juuse Saros‘ contract is up, and even though he is an RFA, he’s still going to get a big payday. His Vezina-caliber season is reason enough to pay him around $5-6 million per year.

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

The only way the Predators could fathom getting Eichel is to make a side deal with the Seattle Kraken and general manager Ron Francis to take one of the big contract centers. But, even then, it’s hard to justify bringing in another massive contract with the possibility of underperforming due to the system, which leads me to my next point.

The Overall Problem Isn’t Fixed

I wrote an entire article on these issues, but the problems that run through the organization still don’t get fixed. It would help to bring in Eichel, as he has proven he can score many points on bad teams barring any injuries. However, the faulty system, scouting department problems, and analytics and data usage in the front office remain. The Predators would be giving up their best prospects for a fantastic player, but it doesn’t matter if he ends up scoring only 60-70 points when he could be scoring 80-90 in the right system.

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

At this point, it doesn’t matter if he’s brought into the fold. Even if they don’t show up early into his tenure with the Predators, the problems will remain. But, on the other hand, if Eichel hits a massive decline in point production, and you advocated to bring him in without fixing any of the other more prominent issues, there shouldn’t be any complaints.

I and many others think Jack is a superstar player in this league. His injury didn’t help him, but the guy is an excellent talent, and a great system could be the remedy. However, the issues in Nashville right now are more significant than anything bringing in a highly touted player can fix. Poile has tried to do it multiple times, and each time it has failed miserably. Kyle Turris is an excellent example. Without a focus on organizational fixes, no player can succeed here. It wouldn’t be beneficial for Eichel’s career or the future of this Predators team to bring him to the Music City, as disappointing as it may seem.

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