Senators Could Use Eichel, But Is the Price Worth It?

The Ottawa Senators have a large collection of talented prospects, and if they reach their advertised potential, the team could become a perennial contender for years to come. The problem with putting the hope of a franchise in a group of prospects is that mathematically, not all of them will translate to the NHL. No matter how heralded a prospect is, nobody is guaranteed to become a consistent figure in a team’s lineup. When you have a chance to deal future assets for a superstar, you must do your due diligence.

Buffalo Sabres Jack Eichel
Jack Eichel recorded a career high 36 goals in only 68 games in 2019-20 (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

With Jack Eichel’s position with the Buffalo Sabres in a place of uncertainty, the Senators should begin to probe the Sabres and new general manager Kevyn Adams and see what it would take to send the superstar centre to Ottawa. While it would likely take a significant batch of assets to bring the Boston University alumni to the capital, it would give Ottawa it’s first legitimate superstar point-producing forward since the mid-2000s.

Why Now Is the Time For Action

With the Sabres’ relationship with Eichel at a point of contention, it’s no secret that he is fed up with the team’s inability to make the playoffs. He is yet to play a game in the postseason and his frustration with the team reached a peak when he publicly called out the organization in May. His emotions may have been getting to him when he made that statement, but it is clear there is some tension between the team and him.

To add to Buffalo’s problems, they have gone through three coaches and three GM’s in five years, never giving Eichel a chance to get some consistency behind the bench or in the front office. With Adams being a rookie GM in a market like Buffalo, he is likely to want to make a splash. The Sabres, despite their decade of misery, just barely missed out on the Stanley Cup qualifiers, which would have ended the teams’ drought. Nonetheless, the team needs to make a decision about Eichel.

What Would It Take?

To be transparent, bringing Eichel to Ottawa would cost a significant price. The assets that would need to go the other way would be far too high for most teams. The Senators, on the other hand, do have the value in their prospect system to facilitate a trade. When you have the prospects that Ottawa does, and two of the top five draft picks in one of the deepest drafts in recent memory, general manager Pierre Dorion and his staff must at least look into the matter.

Related: Focusing in on the Senators’ Promising Forward Prospects

If Ottawa were to start looking into a trade, I’d believe that they’d need to start with Erik Brannstrom. While he is a talented player, who some believe could be a legitimate star someday, players like Eichel don’t come around very often. Even with Brannstrom’s great potential, the Sens would still need to put more on the table, and that would likely include the 3rd or 5th overall pick in the 2020 draft.

Erik Brännström Ottawa Senators
Erik Brännström during the Senators 2019 development camp (Courtesy Ottawa Senators)

If you assume that the Sabres would want the former, that would mean one of Quinton Byfield, Tim Stützle, or a number of other top prospects could be going to Buffalo. That makes the package much more appealing but makes it much harder to swallow from Ottawa’s perspective.

Related: 2020 NHL Draft Guide

A deal could also be made that is centered around Brannstrom, the 21st pick, and another promising prospect like Drake Batherson or Logan Brown. The assets that would be going to Buffalo are significant, and if the Senators were to make a trade for Eichel, they must be prepared to part with prospects that they hold dear.

Is Eichel Worth It?

Without a doubt, Eichel is among the best of the NHL, and more importantly, one of the few elite goal-scoring centers. If the Sens were to acquire him, he would instantly be the best player in their lineup by a large margin. The question is whether or not he’s worth it.

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

Even though Eichel has played on a non-playoff team his entire career, he has established himself as one of the best at his position. Ever since his debut in the 2014-15 season, he has become better and better with each passing season. He set a career-high in goals and was well on his way to establishing a new high in points before the season was paused. At only 23-years old, he will only get better.

Related: What Makes Jack Eichel Unique: An Inside Look

The only significant issue with Eichel is his salary. His current contract, which was signed in 2017, runs until 2026 and is worth $10 million per year. While Ottawa has the cap space to acquire his contract now, their amount of space may change when players like Brady Tkachuk, Connor Brown, and Anthony Duclair need raises. At the same time, the team has several contracts coming off the books that are on the injured reserve. The contracts of Ryan Callahan and Clarke MacArthur will no longer be valid, freeing up millions and allowing the Sens to make a big move.

The Verdict?

Players like Eichel are very rare, and you must pay a premium to acquire them. With that said, the Senators are more than one piece away from contention at this point, and while adding him to the fold would make the team significantly better, it wouldn’t make them a cup contender right away.

Ottawa Senators Pierre Dorion
Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang)

However, Dorion should be keeping an eye on the situation in Buffalo and keep Eichel on his mind. If he plays his cards right, he could acquire an asset that could change the course of the Senators franchise.