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Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to believe that Jack Eichel will open the 2021-22 season as a member of the Buffalo Sabres. Both sides appear ready to move on from the situation in which an unhappy Eichel is tired of losing and fighting the team regarding medical treatment. The only real remaining uncertainty is to what team he will head and what the Sabres will receive in return.
Projecting what it will cost to acquire Jack Eichel is a difficult exercise for a number of reasons. Eichel is a 24-year-old All-Star center who is locked up long-term—the type of player typically on an untouchable list.
However, a number of factors mitigate what should be an otherwise rabid trade market. Eichel’s public disdain for his situation in Buffalo as well as a complicated neck injury hurt Buffalo’s leverage. Furthermore, though Eichel does not possess a no-trade clause, an acquiring team will need to be reasonably confident that he would be happy to join it before committing to putting his $50 million contract on the payroll and giving up a number of prized assets.
Whatever the specific trade package ends up entailing, it will likely include multiple young players, at least one of whom has proved to be a bona fide NHLer, as well as a 2021 first-round pick. So, let’s take a look at five teams speculated to be pursuing Eichel and build the basis for potential trade packages.
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Alex Gallardo/Associated Press
A small market team that isn’t close to winning any time soon, the Anaheim Ducks aren’t the sexiest landing spot for Eichel. That, of course, is not Ducks general manager Bob Murray’s problem. With Corey Perry gone and Ryan Getzlaf’s Ducks’ career winding down, if not already over, the 2006-07 Stanley Cup winners need a new face of the franchise.
The million-dollar question is whether the Ducks would be willing to include center Trevor Zegras. The 20-year-old was the ninth pick in the 2019 draft and was named MVP of the 2021 World Junior Championship for registering 18 points over seven games. In the NHL, he posted three goals and 10 assists in 24 games. If Anaheim is open to including the future first-liner, it will be tough for other teams to offer a better nhl-ready prospect. If not, the Ducks will likely be chasing better offers.
Left winger Rickard Rakell is another logical piece of this potential trade package. The 28-year-old struggled this season but has scored 30-plus goals twice in his career. Rumored to be on the trade block last season, the Swede will be an unrestricted free agent in 2022. Buffalo would try to rebuild his value to either re-sign him or trade him for more pieces.
Isac Lundestrom is another nhl-ready player who makes sense. He’ll never be an impact player, but the 21-year-old is a safe bet as a bottom-six shutdown center and is under team control through 2027.
The prospect who seems a likely inclusion would be 2020 first-round pick Jacob Perreault. The son of former NHLer Yanic Perreault has a high-end skill set. He’s a dual threat offensively with a lethal shot release and strong playmaking skills. With questionable decision-making at times, he is a project who will need hands-on development, but it’s not difficult to see him as a future top-six winger in the nhl.
And then there’s the third overall pick. In a normal draft season, this might be a tough ask by Buffalo. Rarely does a pick that high ever get traded. However, this is a notoriously weak draft. If there was ever a situation for it to occur, this is it. Whether that suits Anaheim’s best long-term interest is a fair question given that it is in a rebuild, but the trade would still be a net positive for the Ducks.
Proposed Framework: Rickard Rakell, Isac Lundestrom, Jacob Perrault, 2021 No. 3 pick
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Jeff Roberson/Associated Press
The Minnesota Wild were one of more well-rounded teams in the nhl this season. They finished comfortably third in the West Division and made the Vegas Golden Knights sweat in their seven-game first-round playoff series. But they are clearly in need of high-end offensive talent. Eichel could certainly do much worse than centering Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello on a safe playoff team.
If Eichel does head to Minnesota, Matt Dumba seems like an inevitable piece who would go the other way. The 26-year-old defenseman has spent his eight-year career with the Wild but has practically lived on the trade block in recent seasons. When he’s on his game, Dumba is a top-four offensive defenseman who will score 10-plus goals. He’s under contract through 2022-23, and the Wild are in danger of losing him to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft.
Jordan Greenway could make sense as a trade chip. The 6’6″, 241-pound left winger has decent hands and is a modern power forward. Consistency issues have plagued him, but the upstate New York native is a surefire NHLer and would have an elevated role with Buffalo. Minnesota is fairly strong on the wing and will likely add top prospect Matthew Boldy to the lineup next season. It can absorb Greenway’s loss.
The pivotal player in this deal could be prospect Marco Rossi. The ninth pick in 2020 put up one of the best seasons in the history of Canadian junior hockey in 2019-20 when he registered 120 points in 56 games, and he has strong abilities as a forechecker and defensive center. He’s a blue-chip prospect with real upside as a star center.
Rossi experienced complications from COVID-19 that shelved him for the 2020-21 season. Perhaps the Wild can make a trade work without his inclusion, but if the Sabres make it non-negotiable, then it will be gut check time for Bill Guerin.
Buffalo would also receive the No. 21 pick in 2021. Minnesota will likely insist on the inclusion of Victor Rask ($4 million cap hit) in order to make the financials work.
Proposed Framework: Matt Dumba, Jordan Greenway, Marco Rossi, Victor Rask, 2021 No. 21 pick
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Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press
The level of the Los Angeles Kings‘ interest in Eichel is unclear. Maybe they’re not in on him, or maybe they’re playing coy. It’s a good reminder that a trade of this magnitude is not only about negotiating cost but also creating leverage and trying to win a bluffing game.
One major obstacle is that the Kings lack expendable established NHLers with appeal. Drew Doughty, Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar are most definitely not going the other way. Alex Iafallo and Matt Roy just gave up unrestricted free-agent years to re-sign with L.A., and trading them to Buffalo would burn bridges.
After them, it’s slim pickings. Would Buffalo have interest in 23-year-old defenseman Kale Clague, who has offensive potential but only 22 nhl games to his name? Rookie center Gabriel Vilardi is maybe the best bet for proven nhl ability and future upside. The former top prospect has had his development delayed by back injuries but showed well with 23 points in 54 games this season.
Among prospects, Quinton Byfield is going nowhere, but American center Alex Turcotte has first-line upside. He was drafted fifth in 2019 and posted eight points in seven games for the United States at the 2021 World Junior Championship. Parting with him wouldn’t be done lightly, but it would be easier to accept if the Kings can rely on Eichel and Byfield down the middle in the future.
The Kings also have the eighth pick in the 2021 draft, and the Sabres appear keen on their ability to extract value from what many believe is a weak draft class.
If the Sabres are willing to invest in young, unproven talent rather than expecting a proven NHLer or two, then the Kings have the pieces to get a deal done.
Proposed Framework: Kale Clague, Gabriel Vilardi, Alex Turcotte, 2021 No. 8 pick
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Matt Slocum/Associated Press
As bad as the Philadelphia Flyers were in 2020-21, they are a logical landing spot for Eichel. They were a game away from making the Eastern Conference Final in 2020 and have a ton of talent. If goaltender Carter Hart returns to form, then Eichel would put Philly right back in the mix of Eastern Conference contenders.
Only Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher knows which players he is and isn’t willing to part with, but the Flyers seem to have quality expendable NHLers to offer Buffalo. Right winger Travis Konecny, 24, had a lukewarm season after posting 24 goals in each of the previous three seasons. Shayne Gostisbehere is a productive offensive defenseman but fell out of favor with head coach Alain Vigneault and has been in trade rumors over the last two seasons.
The obvious prospect target will be Morgan Frost. The talented playmaker was dominant at the junior level and registered seven points in 20 nhl games as a 20-year-old in 2019-20 but missed most of this season with a shoulder injury. He’s ready to be a full-time NHLer and has upside as a second- or third-line center. Center prospect Tyson Foerster is also an option.
The Flyers would also give up the 13th pick in the 2021 draft.
It wouldn’t be a trade without pain for Philadelphia, but we’re talking about acquiring Eichel. Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek are in their 30s, while Sean Couturier is approaching 29. The Flyers need to make bold moves to return to win-now mode.
Proposed Framework: Travis Konecny, Shayne Gostisbehere, Morgan Frost, 2021 No. 13 pick
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Bruce Bennett/Associated Press
The New York Rangers are a natural landing spot for Eichel for a number of reasons. They have a number of expendable assets, room to improve at center and a mandate from ownership to transition out of rebuild mode and start making noise in the playoffs.
Because the Rangers have so many theoretically movable young players and prospects, there are a number of possible permutations for a trade. That’s good news for Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams, who could have his pick, and bad news for hockey writers attempting to nail down potential trade concepts.
The surest bet is that a center would go to Buffalo. If the Sabres believe they could entice Ryan Strome to re-sign after his contract expires in 2022, he may be a big piece. The safer prediction could be the inclusion of 21-year-old Filip Chytil, who is under team control until 2025, is already a good third-line center and has upside as a second-liner.
Vitali Kravtsov is a potential inclusion. After a brutal 2019-20 season, he rebuilt his stock with a strong KHL season and a competent cameo as an nhl rookie. He’s still a good bet to become a top-six nhl forward, but with Pavel Buchnevich and Kaapo Kakko, the Rangers have a busy right winger depth chart. Along those lines, Buchnevich is a potential (though less likely) inclusion for the same reasons as Strome.
The Sabres will want one of the Rangers’ many capable defensemen prospects. They’d likely prefer one of K’Andre Miller or Nils Lundkvist. A lesser but still quality prospect such as Zac Jones or Matthew Robertson might be more amenable for the Rangers. Maybe they meet in the middle and agree on the inclusion of Braden Schneider. The 2020 first-round pick is close to nhl-ready and is likely to become a good second-pairing defenseman.
Finally, let’s have the Rangers include the 2021 15th pick.
Truthfully, though, this trade is exceptionally difficult to project. What if the Rangers dangle Kakko? What if the Sabres love Alexandar Georgiev? All bets are off.
Proposed Framework: Filip Chytil, Vitali Kravtsov, Braden Schneider, 2021 No. 15 pick