Should the New York Rangers make a pitch for Jack Eichel?
It feels like the summer though the 2019-20 New York Rangers season isn’t over yet. Summertime is when we speculate on trades and make proposals that are just plain crazy. Here is one to think about.
Jack Eichel. He is an elite hockey player. He’s young, turning 24 in October. He’s a leader, team captain for the Sabres. He’s been almost a point-a-game player for one of the worst teams in the NHL. He’s coming off a 36 goal season, the best of his career. He’s a center, the most important forward position. He’s also rumored to be unhappy that he is a Buffalo Sabre. This is what he told Buffalo television station WKBW.
“Listen, I’m fed up with losing and I’m fed up and I’m frustrated,” “It’s definitely not an easy pill to swallow right now. It’s been a tough couple of months, it’s been a tough five years with where things have went so…I’m a competitor. I want to win every time I go out on the ice. I want to win the Stanley Cup every time I start a season. ”
He continued: “I’d be lying if I said that I’m not getting frustrated with where things are going…it’s been a pleasure working with Ralph (Kruger)…I’m definitely not in the greatest place…it’s definitely worn on me.”
— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) May 28, 2020
if you have any questions about Eichel’s abiilty, he scored 36 goals and totaled 78 points in 68 games. His plus/minus was +5, third best among regular forwards on the team. His Corsi For percentage was 51.5%, better than any Ranger center. He’s been a solid players since making his debut in 2014-15 at age 19.
The Buffalo Sabres. One of the NHL’s disaster areas. They have won five playoff games in the last 13 seasons. They’ve missed the playoffs nine straight years. In those nine years they have had six coaches. They are on their third general manager in a little over three years. They have one of the most loyal fan bases and those fans have lost patience. The owners, the Pegulas, are reported to be in difficult financial straits due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the Sabres intent on cleaning house and also looking to save money, would they be willing to trade their most expensive (and best) player? If they believe that Jack Eichel will ask to be traded at some point in the near future, should they beat him to the punch and trade him before they are faced with an ultimatum?
If the Sabres can be pursuaded to deal Eichel, and he has no clauses in his contract that would preclude a deal, should the Rangers be in on it? There’s already been speculation that other NHL teams are sniffing around with the Boston Bruins mentioned as a potential trade partner.
In an ultra-competitive Eastern Conference, could the Rangers risk a Jack Eichel landing with one of their playoff rivals? it could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to get a generational player entering his prime and they have to consider it.
Think about it. Jack Eichel centering a line with Artemi Panarin. Two of the best players in the NHL playing together with the Zibanejad-Kreider-Buchnevich line waiting in the wings. An already impressive Ranger offensive would be unstoppable.
Here’s the deal
So, what do the Sabres need? They need good, inexpensive players to build on. The Rangers have a surplus in their pipeline. It may be crazy talk, but here’s the deal:
The Rangers get Jack Eichel to center the top line with Panarin. They would still need to find a right wing for that line, but a player with a pulse would be a success with that pair. In Jake McCabe, the Rangers get a first pair left defenseman to play with Jacob Trouba.
No one wants to see Kaapo Kakko go, but it will take quality to get quality. With Kakko, it’s more potential than proven quality, but the gamble is worth taking. Giving the Sabres their choice between Ryan Strome or Brett Howden lets them replace Eichel at the center position. Alexandar Georgiev could be the Sabres goalie of the future, teaming with LInus Ullmark to solidify their netminding. While Nils Lundkvist raised his stock dramatically this season, he is still a righthanded shooting defenseman who is fourth on the depth chart behind Trouba, Adam Fox and Tony DeAngelo. He is expendable. The Rangers could also offer one of their two first round picks this year as well (the worse pick of the two).
One issue of concern is the salary cap Eichel has six more years left on an eight year deal that has an annual cap hit of $10 million Fitting him into their budget would be a challenge and would require going through some cap contortions. Don’t forget that the Blueshirts will have to find a way to pay Mika Zibanejad when his contract is up in two years.
Okay, this deal has as much chance of getting done as the deal proposed in the Boston Sports Journal. That had the Bruins sending Buffalo one or two first round picks along with Jake DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy and prospects Jack Studnicka or John Beecher.
The Sabres may be gunshy considering the flack they have taken for trading Ryan O’Reilly, another player who was fed up with the losing culture in Buffalo in July 2018. They sent him to St. Louis for forwards Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka and Tage Thompson, a first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, and a second-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.
Berglund quit the team and is playing in Europe. Sobotka is a UFA after two unimpressive seasons (6 goals) in Buffalo. Thompson has done little (7 goals) and is injury prone. The 2019 first rounder is blueliner Ryan Jones who just finished his first season at the University of Minnesota.
All O’Reilly did was win the Stanley Cup while winning the Conn Smythe Trophy. He also won the Selke Trophy as best defensive forward in the NHL and he played in the All-Star game.
The cautionary tale for Buffalo is that there were forced to sell low since O’Reilly had made it clear that he saw no future in Buffalo, a position that Eichel could adopt in the future.
Nothing will happen on the trade front until the Stanley Cup Playoffs have concluded and it looks like that won’t be happening until mid-October. That will leave us plenty of time to continue to speculate about possible moves for the Blueshirts to make.