It seems crazy given that this whole situation began back in May, but here we are in October and the Buffalo Sabres have yet to trade Jack Eichel. The 24-year-old disgruntled superstar has been unable to play to begin the 2021-22 season due to a neck injury which requires surgery, a procedure which he and the team have different opinions on. At this point, the relationship between the two parties appears damaged beyond repair, and a trade is imminent. What team steps up to the plate however remains a mystery.
Several teams have been linked to this situation through its entirety, such as the Vegas Golden Knights, Anaheim Ducks, New York Rangers, and the Calgary Flames. The Sabres’ asking price has caused teams to be hesitant however, as they reportedly want back top prospects, draft picks, and would also need a roster player back to help balance the salary cap. One team who could potentially make a deal work here, but hasn’t been talked about, is the Detroit Red Wings.
Does It Make Sense for Red Wings?
As far as prospects go, the Red Wings have plenty that would interest the Sabres. At the top is Moritz Seider, who is not only their best prospect but one of the best prospects throughout the entire league. He has gotten off to a fantastic start in his career with three points in his first four games. Another elite prospect they have is Lucas Raymond, who also has three points through his first four career NHL games this season.
General manager Steve Yzerman would be very hesitant to move either of these players in any situation, and rightfully so. Though the Red Wings rebuild has taken longer than some had hoped, they have one of the best prospect pools in the entire league, and the future appears very bright.
While Seider and Raymond are the most intriguing, the Red Wings have several other great prospects in Simon Edvinsson, Jonatan Berggren, and Sebastian Cossa, all of whom the Sabres would most certainly love to have. They would pry at the first two mentioned, but may settle for one or two of the other three given the fact no other teams in the running seem to be wanting to give up their top prospects either.
Because of the bright future this organization seems to have however, many Red Wings fans wouldn’t even want to consider an Eichel trade, and it’s hard to blame them. For those on the fence, here are some reasons it may make sense for Yzerman to pull off the blockbuster.
Prospects Far From a Sure Thing
As mentioned, the Red Wings have several high end prospects which has many believing they could turn into a very good team in the next few seasons. However, it is important to remember that regardless of how promising some prospects seem to be, it is impossible to predict how they will perform at the NHL level.
Many young talents who were expected to have great NHL careers never ended up working out. Within the past decade, players like Nail Yakupov up front and Griffin Reinhart on the back end are perfect examples of highly coveted prospects that didn’t pan out, and they are just two of several. This is important to keep in mind for the Red Wings. Though both Seider and Raymond look like they have great futures ahead of them, they are unproven at this point, whereas we already know what Eichel is capable of.
Elite Centermen Like Eichel are Few and Far Between
Another reason the Red Wings should seriously consider making a push for Eichel is the fact that elite centermen are very hard to come across. At just 24 years old, he is just coming into the prime of his career. Through his 375 career games, he has managed 355 points, all while playing for an underwhelming Sabres team.
Aside from goaltending, one could make the argument that the center position is the most important in hockey. Having a dominating center is a game changer and can be what pushes teams over the top. Prime examples of this are in recent Stanley Cup winners like the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have Brayden Point, as well as the St. Louis Blues, who have Ryan O’Reilly. During the Chicago Blackhawks elite years, they had one of the best in the game in Jonathan Toews, while the Pittsburgh Penguins have also won three Cups with both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Speeding up the Rebuild
Many of the prospects in the Red Wings system are still a ways away from being impactful at the NHL level. Yes, some of them are close to or are currently playing in the NHL, but it is very rare for young players to join the league and dominate right off the hop. Of course, both Seider and Raymond are off to great starts, but whether or not they are able to play at this high of a level remains to be seen. For some of their other prospects who aren’t at the NHL level yet, it means it could still be at least a few years before they are making an impact.
Acquiring Eichel would help with that, as he is good enough to win some games almost singlehandedly. Many will point to the fact he wasn’t able to do that in Buffalo, but this roster is arguably already better than the Sabres ever was. He could help speed up the rebuilding process, while also helping develop some of the teams young players, given that losing can take a serious toll on an individual’s confidence.
Red Wings Protected by Trade Conditions
When trade discussions involving Eichel first arose, there was a ton of hesitation given his current injury and whether or not he will be able to remain healthy going forward. That doesn’t have to be as much of a concern for teams now, as the Sabres have acknowledged the fact in recent weeks that they will need to include conditions in a potential deal.
According to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, there could be several conditions included an Eichel trade. One condition LeBrun specifically mentioned was games played, meaning he would need to meet a certain amount of games played in a specific time period in order to remove the condition. This would provide some insurance to the Red Wings, or any other interested team, as it makes a deal much less risky.
As said previously, there are many out there who wouldn’t even consider making an Eichel trade for a number of reasons. Their concerns are certainly warranted, but it is important to remember just how elite the player is they would be acquiring. Sure, there are risks involved, but the Sabres understand that as well and are willing to include insurance clauses to put teams at ease.
Not wanting to include Seider or Raymond in a potential Eichel deal is fair as well. Despite both being unproven at the NHL level to this point, their ceilings are extremely high. Of course, those would be the first two players the Sabres would inquire about, but perhaps given how long this situation has played out they would settle for another few prospects in the Red Wings pipeline instead. At the very least, it is certainly worth looking at for Yzerman.
There are very few centers in the game who are as dominate as Eichel when healthy, and adding him could turn the Red Wings around much sooner than continuing to wait on all of their prospects. They would be without him for a good chunk of time this season because of the surgery he requires, but he would be fully healthy and ready to go in 2022-23, and could very well help bring the Red Wings back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2015-16 season.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Oil On Whyte, NHLtradetalk.com, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.