The New York Rangers have been linked to Jack Eichel for the better portion of one year, as trade rumors have continued to circulate involving the star center. Recently, rumors have become more robust, as the Buffalo Sabres have struggled to win, much to the ire of their captain who prides himself on winning. To acquire Eichel, the package will have to be immense, but most would agree it’s a price worth paying for a 24-year-old center who is already a star in the league.
Eichel has scored at least 20 goals each season, registering over 56 points in each campaign of his career. The scary part is, he has yet to reach his prime and has carried a rather lackluster Sabres team. The Rangers have the ability to place him with Artemi Panarin, a duo that would quickly become one of the scariest in the league.
Elliotte Friedman said on ‘The Instigators’ podcast, “The team I would look at first is the Rangers. I think the Rangers could make the deal. I think both those teams could make deals with Buffalo; that would make you say maybe we didn’t get the best player in return (because Eichel is probably the best player in the deal), but you are getting something that you’re excited about.” Friedman went on to mention that Eichel isn’t a UFA making the price a team will have to pay to acquire him even steeper.
Odds are it would take a package that includes an assortment of the Rangers’ top prospects and current players to acquire Eichel, a decision that could be the most crucial of general manager Jeff Gorton’s career. Since entering the league in 2015-16, the former second-overall pick has 349 points, the 23rd most over that span. That total would be higher had he played alongside another equally skilled forward — a position the Rangers could put him in.
Make That 2 in a Row
The Rangers have started a road trip with two wins against two more formidable East teams. They took care of the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday with a 3-2 shootout victory, carrying that momentum to a massive 4-1 win against the Washington Capitals. Through 16 games, the Rangers are 6-7-3, good for 15 points, a total they hope to improve upon as their play starts to get more consistent.
Both Rangers’ goaltenders recorded wins over the two games, as Alexandar Georgiev defeated Pthe Flyers and Igor Shesterkin took down the Capitals for the second time this season. The stagnant Rangers’ offense slowly has picked up the pace over the last two matchups, scoring seven goals after just four goals over their previous four games combined. The monkey was taken off both Mika Zibanejad and Alexis Lafreniere’s backs, as both found the back of the net Saturday afternoon.
Lafreniere corralled a pass from Panarin in front, finishing off a nifty backhand for his second goal of the season and first in eight games. Zibanejad less impressively tallied an empty-netter for his second, ending a 12-game goalless drought. It was a much-needed game for both players, with the hopes that their sticks can continue to heat up on Wednesday against the Flyers.
More impressively, the Rangers’ defense has played phenomenally against two high-powered offenses. The Capitals were held to just one goal despite averaging 3.47 goals per game, good for the fifth-most in the NHL. On Thursday, the Flyers were held to two goals, a low number for a team averaging 3.43 goals per game (seventh). This trend needs to continue for this young group to maintain success in a brutal East Division.
Kakko Back in COVID Protocol
Kaapo Kakko missed Saturday’s game against the Capitals as he was placed on the NHL’s COVID list for the second time this season. It is unknown how long his stay on this list will be, but the Rangers hope to get the 20-year-old back in the lineup sooner rather than later.
Kakko was the Rangers’ most noticeable forward during Panarin’s absence, showing signs of a pending breakout. The Finnish winger has diabetes, so there is an added risk to him getting the virus, emphasizing the importance of utilizing caution regarding his health.
He has four days to clear protocol and get back on the ice before the Rangers’ next game in Philadelphia, which will be on Wednesday. Head coach David Quinn has to be pleased with his group’s reversal of fortune recently, and with three more games against teams in front of them in the standings coming up, this play must continue for the results to remain the same.
Brendan Azoff is a THW contributor and podcast host dedicated to covering the New York Rangers. His passion for hockey started when he first laced up the skates at three, growing into his love for writing and talking about the greatest sport in the world. His podcast, The Backcheck, breaks down the Rangers, Islanders, and NHL news and can be found on The Hockey Writers Podcast Network and Belly Up Sports. Brendan has been writing about the Rangers and the NHL for over two years, with his content also found on Puck Prose, Blue Line Station, and E2G Sports. If you want to connect with Brendan and stay up-to-date on his posts, follow him on Twitter. He is always available for content ideas and interviews, don’t be afraid to ask!