The 2020-2021 NHL season has officially come to a close with the Tampa Bay Lightning repeating as Stanley Cup Champions. Now, unfortunately, hockey fans must face the harsh reality of going from playoff hockey every other day... to nothing until October 😭. If the thought of these deadpan off-season months depresses you, I completely understand. But try your best not to worry! Here at The Next Great Hockey Blog, I will continue to provide weekly hockey content, starting with this article. In this article, I really just want to shed some light on the whole Jack Eichel saga. I find a lot of people seem to have forgotten how talented Jack Eichel is (if that is even possible!) and also how complicated this particular situation is for all parties. Here we go!
Why Eichel Is On The Trade Block/How We Got Here
Drafted 2nd overall behind Connor McDavid in 2015, Jack Eichel was supposed to be a franchise-changing player for the Buffalo Sabres. Eichel was that generational talent Buffalo could build around and he ultimately was expected to singlehandedly save the Sabres' franchise. Unfortunately, that is not how this situation played out. In his six years in Buffalo, Eichel had 139 goals, 216 assists and 375 points. He did his part! But as a team, the Sabres' never made any progress. After six long rebuilding years, Buffalo has actually gotten worse! We all know about the 18 consecutive losses the Sabres suffered this year. The record they put up in this 2020-2021 NHL season was historically awful for the franchise! Nobody thought it could get any worse... until Eichel got injured. Twenty-one games into the year, his season was over. And when Sabres fans finally got to see their captain again at the post-season presser, this happened:
"Disconnect"? "Wherever that may be"? OUCH! Jack Eichel was already fed up with the Buffalo Sabres because of all the constant losing. I mean, who wouldn't be?! Jack can't do it all himself! Buffalo management don't bring in pieces to support their stars. Sabres' coaches mismanage players left, right and center! All this poor guy wants to do is win. And now, he is suffering with a herniated disc in his neck and is unable to complete surgery on it because of the Sabres ownership?! Calling the sad state of affairs in Buffalo a disconnect may actually be quite mild. Nonetheless, Eichel's comments look really bad on the Buffalo Sabres organization.
Thankfully, Kevyn Adams had his post-season presser two days after Eichel's and did some damage control regarding the injury. Essentially, Jack Eichel and his camp want to complete an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion surgery to remove his herniated disc. Except, it has never been done on a professional hockey league player before and Buffalo does not feel comfortable with Eichel being the first one. The Sabres' ownership, management and medical team prefer to attempt conservative care/rehab treatment prior to jumping right into a surgery. In retrospect, what the Buffalo Sabres organization is saying actually sounds pretty reasonable! It is clear Eichel's camp is leveraging this injury, as best they can, to force a trade out of Buffalo and Kevyn Adams only confirmed it with this quote:
"He (Eichel) took an honest conversation and made it contentious... We will get this right with people who want to be here" -GM Kevyn Adams
Yup, it is definitely the right time for both parties to move on 😅!
What Does Buffalo Want In Return for Jack Eichel
As of right now, the New York Rangers and Anaheim Ducks are reported frontrunners to land Eichel, with the Golden Knights, Flames, Kings, Bruins and Wild also in the mix. In terms of value, the Sabres are asking for quite the haul for their disgruntled superstar: a top-six center (25 or younger), top-four defenceman (25 or younger), first round pick and various prospects. Does that sound ridiculous? Of course it does! But let's not forget who Jack Eichel is:
When healthy, Jack Eichel has proven himself to be a top five center in the NHL and he's done so on one of the league's worst teams! He could be a Hall of Famer one day if he goes to Vegas and plays between Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty... or even alongside Panarin in New York 😍! Kevyn Adams has gotten a lot of criticism from the media about his trade price for Eichel... I personally think it is all about perspective. It is extremely difficult to win a trade when you are giving up a player like Jack Eichel, but it is not impossible. 90% of this trade for Buffalo is not getting fleeced. They must make sure they leave with assets their team will be happy with. I think Kevyn Adams has done a fantastic job at standing his ground during these trade talks and I hope that continues. People have to remember: The Sabres have no obligation to trade Eichel. Eichel's stock is at the lowest it will likely ever be at! If teams are worried about the injury, that's fine. Eichel is under contract in Buffalo until 2026. The Sabres have tons of time! Teams can wait until he is healthy and pay double for him if that is what they want to do!!! Buffalo isn't looking for the best deal, they are looking for the right deal. And Kevyn Adams knows he can't afford to get this trade wrong!
Why A Jack Eichel Trade Is Not The Best Option for Some Team
Now that we talked a bit about Jack Eichel and the sticky situation that led to him being put on Buffalo's trade block, I want to play Devil's advocate for a second and explain why acquiring Jack Eichel may not be the best move for some teams. In my humble opinion, as extraordinarily talented a player Jack is, he is not someone who will change the culture of your franchise. Rather, I believe he would do better joining a team who's culture is already established. Eichel has drive and an incredible hunger to win... I just don't think he is a leader yet! Therefore, if you are the Anaheim Ducks, and you have a strong group of talented young players (Trevor Zegras, Jamie Drysdale, Maxime Comtois, Max Jones et cetra) who double as great leaders, I wouldn't trade that away for Jack Eichel! When Jack entered the NHL, he was immediately expected to be a leader... but there was no one on the Sabres to really show him how! I believe Eichel has the potential to be one of the NHL's best captains one day, but as of right now, he isn't and that will turn off many rebuilding teams.
My Prediction for a Jack Eichel Trade
I personally think that Jack Eichel will end up a Vegas Golden Knight when this is all said and done. Vegas is a tight-knit, competitive team, hungry for their first Stanley Cup and "The Eichel Tower" at first-line center could be the final piece Kelly McCrimmon needs, to make his team successful. Eichel would learn a lot from being around guys like Mark Stone and Alex Pietrangelo in his first few years, before transitioning to a larger leadership role as the team ages. Overall, I just think Vegas would be a perfect fit for Jack Eichel.
I hope you guys enjoyed this article! Where do you think Eichel will land?! Let me know in the comment section below!