The Realistic Trade Value Of The Buffalo Sabres Jack Eichel

Jack Eichel
OTTAWA, ON - FEBRUARY 18: Buffalo Sabres Center Jack Eichel (9) waits for a face-off during second period National Hockey League action between the Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators on February 18, 2020, at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, ON, Canada. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres has the hockey world abuzz with trade rumours. The internet instantly flooded with trade rumours as both bloggers and professional hockey writers started to put together imaginary deals. These deals, almost without exception, included prospects of varied value and often a bad contract coming back to create room. While everyone wants to acquire a superstar for a bargain price, it is not likely to happen. So what is the realistic trade value of the Buffalo Sabres Jack Eichel?

First things first. Jack Eichel is very likely not on the trade block. The Sabres know he is a cornerstone piece of any NHL team and they want to win with him. They also know that NHL teams can wait years to draft true elite first-line centres. To use a car analogy, Jack Eichel is a Ferrari. You do not trade a Corvette, two Mustangs, and three pick-up trucks to acquire such a high-end piece of equipment. It doesn’t matter how you spin it, those pieces do not get it done.

The Realistic Trade Value Of The Buffalo Sabres Jack Eichel

The Sabres are a team that seems to be in a perpetual rebuild. Despite drafting two elite players in Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin, they seem to be unable to find any sustainable success. This situation has caused another house cleaning of management with Jason Botterill and his staff relieved of their duties and the hiring of Kevyn Adams as General Manager.

This losing environment and lack of stability have resulted in Eichel stating his displeasure very publicly and this has, in turn, created the online storm of trade rumours for him. A number of articles have appeared that offer differing returns for the young superstar. Teams included in these rumours include the Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils, Los Angeles Kings, and even the San Jose Sharks.

What Do You Get In Eichel?

In Eichel, the receiving team would be receiving a 23-year-old centre drafted only behind Connor McDavid in the 2015 NHL Draft. Eichel was advertised as a generational talent and has delivered on that promise. He is also only getting better, not even close to his prime.

Jack Eichel is unquestionably elite and this must be stressed in any trade talk. At 23, he was in the top five centers offensively. In most other categories he is already among the top ten centers in the league. He has only scratched the surface of his incredible ability.

Eichel admittedly took a few years to blossom at the NHL. Comparables such as McDavid or Auston Matthews simply stepped in and performed albeit with much better talent around them. Whereas Eichel improved year after year on a team that never improved until this past year when he broke out, scoring at a 43 goal and a 94 point pace. When play was suspended, Eichel was 10th in league scoring despite playing one or two fewer games than everyone else in the top ten besides McDavid. He was fifth in scoring among centers.

What Is Offered In The Rumors?

The proposed deals are all fairly ludicrous, ranging from questionable mixes of assets to outright outrageous offers. While there has been no reliable confirmation that teams are offering for Eichel, there has been plenty of articles online that have concocted their own potential packages.

In a recent article on LWOH, Montreal Canadiens beat writer Samuel Lapierre spoke on what it would take for the Canadiens to acquire Eichel. In it, Lapierre proposes a package circled around Jesper Kotkaniemi, Max Domi, and potential draft picks.

The speculation bug also hit NBC Sports, whose Brian Witt created a package that could, hypothetically, send Eichel to the San Jose Sharks. Witt cited Sharks general manager Doug Wilson‘s knack for acquiring big names, like Joe Thornton, Erik Karlsson, Dany Heatley, and Dan Boyle. He went on to form two packages:

  1. Brent Burns, Ryan Merkley, Jonathan Dahlen, and a future first-round pick for Eichel.
  2. Timo Meier, Merkley, and Dahlen, and a first-round pick for Eichel.

The Athletic also chimed into the discussion. Eric Stephens and Lisa Dillman co-wrote a piece that discussed the Anaheim Ducks potential interest in Eichel. While they didn’t give any explicit potential returns, they do set the bar with a one-for-one deal: John Gibson for Jack Eichel. While they went on to explain the extreme unlikeliness of this deal, it does a great job of showing the high, high price that Eichel would demand.

What Would Buffalo Demand?

As stated previously, the Sabres have no interest in moving Eichel and unless he demands a trade or another GM steps up with a trade that simply must be taken, he is not going anywhere. Should that happen, Buffalo will only be looking at hockey deals. The endless rebuild cannot be allowed to continue with prospects who may or may not develop.

Likewise, overpaid and soon to be over the hill veterans do not help the team at all. The Sabres need to stay young and improve their depth and competitive edge. Also, a center would likely have to be part of the deal.

Knowing all this, what would it take to get a deal done?

Step One

Include your best player under 26. Then add a secondary valuable piece. The extremely few players who are better than Eichel are not being traded so the team trading for him would be getting the best player in the deal. This means including one of your best superstar players to make it work.

Reading every trade proposal on the internet shows an extreme lack of any real elite talent under 30 which would leave any Eichel talk at the no-start stage.

Using the teams listed above the starting point for each team could be:

Montreal: Premiere Piece – Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Secondary Piece – Cole Caufield

San Jose: Premiere Piece – Tomas Hertl, Secondary Piece – Ryan Merkley

Anaheim: Premiere Piece – Maxime Comtois, Secondary Piece – 2020 First-Round Pick (Sixth Overall)

Note that this would be a starting point. With Buffalo not looking to move Eichel these offers alone would likely not get it done. Other picks or prospects would need to be included.

Step Two

Do not try to include a garbage contract back to make room for Eichel’s $10M AAV. If a contract like that is required to come back, further assets would be required to sweeten the deal for Buffalo. The price to absorb a bad contract for a year or two would be a pick in the bottom half of the first round or two extremely high second-round picks. This price to move a bad contract is well established throughout the league.

Why Is He Worth So Much?

Over the last number of years, we have seen very few centers get traded. The Matt Duchene trade to Ottawa set a very high bar and the trade of pending free agent winger Mark Stone shows what incredible value there is in true high-end players. And with all due respect, neither of the aforementioned are in the same elite bracket as Eichel. They are both also older and considerably further along in their NHL careers.

While the cost to acquire such a phenomenal talent at such a young age seems incredibly steep, what is it worth to acquire a player who will be immediately the best player on your roster at the hardest position to fill? That is why the realistic trade value of Jack Eichel is so high.

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