The Buffalo Sabres are in a tough situation with Jack Eichel. They have to move him, and this statement from Eichel’s agents Peter Fish and Peter Donatelli isn’t making the process easy. They outlined, “What is being left out of the discussion is that Jack would be able to play in the NHL for the start of the season pending medical clearance if he were allowed to have the surgery he desires even as of this date.” What has made potential trade partners hesitant is the medical status of Eichel. Teams are not aware of the severity of the injury, and now it has been made public. The disconnect between the two sides has been building for months over this topic.
“This process is stopping Jack from playing in the NHL, and it’s not working.” Eichel’s representatives wrote this statement to remind the Sabres that they were not in full control. They want a trade to happen as quickly as possible, but the Sabres are content with being patient. During his press conference on July 29, general manager (GM) Kevyn Adams stated, “we don’t feel any pressure.” Only time will tell which side will come on top.
Looking at the trade market, it appears to be at a standstill. According to Michael Russo, the Minnesota Wild have backed out of trade talks with the Sabres. According to Ryan Kennedy, the Vegas Golden Knights’ offer to the Sabres was Peyton Krebs, Reilly Smith, Nicolas Hague, and a first-rounder. Since the trade hasn’t been made yet, the team is looking for more valuable assets in that potential deal.
The Minnesota Wild and Vegas Golden Knights are the most interesting teams in this scenario, as they are already playoff teams. If Minnesota added Eichel to play with Kirill Kaprizov, that would create a dynamic duo that is nearly unstoppable. If Vegas added Eichel, he could play with the likes of Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty, and there is a need for a first-line center there.
Related: Meet the Sabres’ 2021 Draft Class
The Golden Knights are a team that will likely reevaluate their options. They are known for being aggressive in the trade market and exploring various ways to sign free agents to make their team better. Keeping this in mind, let’s explore the potential trade that could be made between these two clubs. Vegas has a lot of valuable assets that could be moved.
Without further ado, here is why the Sabres should target Peyton Krebs as the centerpiece of the trade.
Peyton Krebs Is Among the NHL’s Best Prospects
The Golden Knights are known for trading their prospects in trades, such as Nick Suzuki in the Pacioretty trade. Krebs was their 17th-overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and has produced at an elite level in the Western Hockey League (WHL). In 24 games last season, he put up 13 goals and 43 points for the Winnipeg Ice. He was also electric for Team Canada at the U20 World Juniors Championships (WJC-20), putting up five goals and eight points in seven games.
He is known as an exceptional skater and has terrific playmaking abilities. His shot could use some work, as he is not an elite scoring threat. That aspect of his game and his Achilles injury made him drop in his draft. When he made the jump to the American Hockey League (AHL), he was dynamic at cycling the puck in the offensive zone, but only scored one goal. Based on his scoring history, he has the potential to score 15-20 goals regularly at the NHL level, with his ceiling being 25.
Krebs also has an outstanding work ethic, whether practicing his one-timer or creating turnovers in the neutral zones. He is always chasing the puck and is determined to strip it from the opposition. He has all the attributes of a great center. In the four games that he played for Vegas in 2020-21, he put up an expected goals for percentage (xGF%) of 58.05 percent at 5v5.
This is a great prospect, but this is an Eichel trade being proposed. Krebs should not be untouchable in this deal, especially since Eichel can play at the start of next season if he gets the surgery. There is a deal in the making between these two teams if they wish to continue.
What Else Needs to Be Included?
When Reilly Smith was included in the potential trade package, many Sabres fans were surprised that it wasn’t Alex Tuch. The team is looking for younger players as they head towards another rebuild, and Tuch is just 25, as opposed to Smith, who is 30. Since the initial report, it has come out that Tuch will be sidelined for six months after having shoulder surgery. That is why the team acquired Evgenii Dadonov from the Ottawa Senators last week.
The Sabres will need players on their team next season, so they don’t want to acquire somebody who will be injured until January. Whether that is the correct mindset or not can be debated. Excluding Tuch from the conversations, it awaits to be seen what is holding up the deal. The Golden Knights should be willing to trade Smith, so he would likely be included. It appears that Nicolas Hague may be a piece that is holding this up.
Hague is a 22-year-old defender who had a breakthrough season last year for the team, putting up 17 points in 52 games. He was also first on the team regarding his xGF% with a minimum time on ice of 100 minutes, which was at 56.59 percent at 5v5. He can drive the play, make good defensive decisions on the counterattack, and is a scoring threat. He can even come through in big moments, scoring on this wrist shot in the seventh game of the playoff series between the Wild and Golden Knights.
Krebs would immediately fit into the Sabres lineup, potentially playing in the team’s middle-six forward lines. It would create an internal competition between him and Arttu Ruotsalainen. Both players would be battling for minutes on the team’s second line. As for Hague, he would likely play on the third pair next to Mark Pysk, who signed with Buffalo in free agency. He would have to fight for minutes with Will Butcher and Robert Hagg, who project to play on the second and third pairings.
Both players would add more speed into the lineup, along with Krebs’s dynamic playmaking and Hague’s ability to defend off the rush. They both fit the age group of the core, as Cozens, Power, and Dahlin are very young, and they could grow together as a group.
The Sabres are within their rights to ask for these players, and Vegas would be smart for attempting to keep them. At the end of the day, the team cannot afford to lose an Eichel trade of substantial value. The pieces included in this deal will help out the future of this rebuild. Krebs could play on a line with Cozens for the next decade, and Hague can join a young defensive core that features Dahlin and Owen Power. Hopefully, the two sides will follow up on this one.
Jordan Jacklin is a freelance writer who covers the Buffalo Sabres here at The Hockey Writers. Jordan is a student at Ryerson’s Sport Media program and uses analytics and video scouting to evaluate your favourite players in the game.