3 Possible Trade Destinations for Sabres’ Jack Eichel

There’s one question on everyone’s mind in Sabreland. But it’s not who will the Buffalo Sabres take at the draft with the number one pick. The focus is on when we should expect a Jack Eichel trade. Based on the information out there, my best guess is between the expansion draft (June 21) and the NHL Entry Draft (July 23). But there are aggravating factors to this trade.

Now that the 12-week period marking the official end of the rehabilitation part of Eichel’s recovery from a neck injury has ended, both parties need to decide on the surgery Eichel wishes to have. There are a few ways that could go down. However, Eichel and the team could reach an impasse, which would mean his camp could file for medical arbitration under the collective bargaining agreement. The time window would then be 60 days for Eichel to bring forth a grievance against the Sabres before a medical panel of sports medicine experts: one selected by the team, one by the player and the third would have to be mutually agreed upon.

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

Should Eichel not win this battle, his options then would be slim. He could accept the Sabres’ training staff wishes regarding what to do with the injury or request a trade. He hasn’t done either yet, and even though a trade is highly suspected as likely to happen this summer, the Sabres and general manager Kevyn Adams have not said they’re for sure trading the captain.

But with all that said, most still believe there will be a trade as Eichel and the Sabres appear to be on a collision course. We could see it happen before July 23 for Adams to gather in more draft pick currency, which can definitely be helpful for the rebuild. And as Lance Lysowski of the Buffalo News points out, it’s likely the Sabres will wait until after the expansion draft so that Adams isn’t caught having to protect a bunch of his new assets. The trade return is most likely to be a basket of picks, prospects and players.

No trade involving Eichel will be simple. Obtaining equal value isn’t possible after Eichel totaled only two goals this season. There are also medical questions and Adams may try to wait until after the expansion draft since he would possibly have to protect multiple players acquired in a trade.

While it’s not a stretch to say every team in the NHL would want Eichel, only a few have the assets and cap space to make a deal work…

‘Who can give best deal in Eichel trade?’ Lance Lysowski, The Buffalo News 6/11/2021

A Kings’ Ransom Too Much for GM Rob Blake

No matter where things go, it looks like the Kings — who once had some interest in Eichel — are out. But that doesn’t mean they won’t reevaluate if the asking price drops. As John Hoven’s report shows, after following up with Adams, the Kings backed out because of the price. That tells us that Adams is asking for a decent return. But it also tells us he’s not getting it so far.

Are other teams willing to step up and poach Eichel from the Sabres with an offer that piques Adams’ interest? Or will the return be a middle-of-the-road basket of picks and prospects that may or may not help the Sabres down the road? Or, as Dreger suspects, will Adams stand pat and only trade Eichel for the right deal — which may never materialize?

Any interest Kings’ general manager Rob Blake had in Eichel has evaporated. Reports say Byfield was in the mix for Adams, and the Kings do not want to trade him.

Kings insider Hoven writes that it’s no secret the Kings want to improve their roster, but not at the cost of the young guns they covet. Blake was straightforward in his end-of-the-season press comments, saying, “We need to add to this roster to get better.” But that doesn’t mean every big-name player available is going to draw their interest, though Eichel certainly did for a while. Still…

In talking with several sources around the organization over the past few weeks, there just doesn’t appear to be much interest in Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel. You can point to any number of different reasons why — the neck injury and the big contract (five more years at a $10M AAV, including four years of a No Movement Clause) certainly come up often — yet, in the end, it’s the acquisition cost that most likely kills any deal for the 24-year-old center. The Kings aren’t looking to trade Quinton Byfield, period. That alone could sour the Sabres. On top of that, LA’s other top-of-the-food-chain assets are being saved for what they feel is their eventual ‘big move,’ namely a defenseman.

Golden Knights a Fit?

As far as I know, there are no reports out there that the Vegas Golden Knights are at all interested in anything but chasing down the Stanley Cup right at the moment. But it’s interesting to me that the Knights could actually make this deal work.

So far, in some of the more notable trades the Golden Knights have made, they’ve gone with wingers (Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone in 2018 and 2019), a defenseman (Alec Martinez) and goalie (Robin Lehner). It’s hard to say there’s a whole lot missing on a team that is playing as well as they are right now, but if there was anywhere that they could add, it would be at centre. I would bet Knights’ GM Kelly McCrimmon wouldn’t bat an eye at trying to go after what would be a franchise centreman.

Eichel Tower in New York

I’ll end this piece with the team I think is perhaps the worst idea. If Adams trades Eichel to the New York Rangers, Sabres fans might jump off the Peace Bridge. But before I get too carried away, there could be teams that jump in that we are not thinking about right now for a player of this calibre. The Anaheim Ducks are said to be in on the Eichel sweepstakes. The Minnesota Wild are said to be a potential fit. Elliotte Friedman has said the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators could make it happen. The Calgary Flames have also been mentioned. In the end, it will take the team with the right mix of will and willingness to part with young assets in order to make it happen.

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“To me the team with the best combination of want and ability to do it is the Rangers,” Friedman said back in March on Sportnet’s The Lead. “But is Buffalo going to be comfortable sending him there?”

During the last offseason, the two teams did talk, Friedman noted. “There was an offer on the table. I don’t think it included (the Rangers’) number one overall pick — I’m sure Buffalo asked. But there was an offer on the table I understand was pretty reasonable. I just wonder if the Sabres are going to look at this and say, ‘Oh god, we don’t need that.’ So, I think part of the issue is going to be is there anybody who has the will who can beat what the Rangers have to offer.”

If there isn’t any team who can, then Adams should probably hold onto him a bit longer rather than trade him to a state rival. When a player like Eichel hits the market, there are many teams that will want him, but probably only a few that can swing it… that is unless Adams blinks.

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