A not so crazy trade proposal for Jack Eichel

Jack Eichel #9 of the Buffalo Sabres goes up against Mika Zibanejad #93 of the New York Rangers (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Jack Eichel is supposed to be unhappy in Buffalo and that should interest the New York Rangers

The New York Rangers could make a big splash in the trade market if one of the top players in the NHL is really available.  It may cost them their first overall pick, but it’s worth considering.

Jack Eichel has played five seasons in the NHL.  As a 23-year-old he has developed into better than a point-a-game NHL player.  He is coming off his best season in the NHL, scoring 36 goals and 78 points in 68 games.  He has been the captain of the Sabres for two years.  His annual cap hit is $10 million and he is under contract for six more seasons, though 2025-26.

Why would he want out? In his five years the Sabres have never made the playoffs.  After promising starts the team inevitably bottoms out.  The management has been a revolving door.  Eichel has had three coaches and three general managers over five seasons.

Jack Eichel has been vocal about the situation.  This is what he told reporters on a conference call in May.  “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.”

He continued: “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 . . . I’d be lying if I said that I’m not getting frustrated with where things are going.”

If Jack Eichel wants out of Buffalo, the New York Rangers need to be vying for his services.

What would it take?

The one trading chip that the Rangers have that makes them an instant contender for his services is their first overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft.  The Sabres would be foolish to not consider a chance to draft Alexis Lafreniere as a golden opportunity to remake their franchise.  Never mind that they had the first or second overall pick three times in the last six years.  It’s clearly not working for them.

The Rangers should not consider trading away a generational draft pick unless they can get one in return.   Jack Eichel is a generational player and will be an NHL star for the next decade.  He’s a sure thing, something we cannot say about Lafreniere, no matter how much hype has surrounded him.

Eichel is a center, a position the Rangers need to improve.  He is a team leader.   A Rangers team with Mika Zibanejad, Jack Eichel, Filip Chytil and Brett Howden up the middle would immediately be one of the strongest in the NHL.

The deal

If the Sabres are serious about going in a new direction and if new General Manager Kevyn Adams wants to roll the dice, this could be the way to go.  The Rangers should play hardball and shoot for the stars, after all, it’s a sellers market.

Here’s the proposal:

Rangers Get
Jack Eichel, Center
Jake McCabe, Left defense
2020 1st Round Pick, 8th overall
Sabres Get
2020 1st Round Pick, 1st overall
Ryan Strome, Center
Lias Andersson, Center

If the Rangers acquire Eichel, it makes Strome expendable and the Sabres will able to afford his salary, even if he goes to arbitration.  In Andersson, the Sabres get potential and a player who is likely to never see Madison Square Garden ice ever again.

The Rangers get Jack Eichel and the eighth overall pick in a deep draft.   They also get 26 year old Jake McCabe, under contract for one more year at a reasonable $2.85 million.  McCabe will give them a partner for Jacob Trouba, a hole that they need to fill.    They Blueshirts will have to figure out how to fit Eichel’s $10 million into their budget, but without having to pay Strome they will have some flexibility.

Long term, Eichel would also be insurance at center if the Blueshirts are unable to re-sign Mika ZIbanejad, who is a free agent after the 2021-22 season.

Don’t forget that this would reunite Eichel with his college coach, David Quinn.  In 2014-15 Boston University, with Quinn as coach and Eichel as their star, finished second at the Frozen Four, losing the championship game to Providence College. That season, Eichel was only the second freshman to win the Hobey Baker Award after Paul Kariya in 1993.

Could it happen?

The odds are that all of the speculation about the Rangers trading the top pick is precisely that, pure conjecture.  The best news is that Jeff Gorton and the Blueshirts are really in a no lose situation.  They either keep the pick or ask for and get the sun, moon and stars from a team willing to give up too much to get Lafreniere.

Could the Rangers demand Rasmus Dahlin instead of McCabe by adding K’Andre Miller to the deal?   Should they ask for the Buffalo second round pick or a 2021 first rounder as well?  There are dozens of scenarios and this is only one of them, but if Buffalo is seriously looking at trading their superstar, the Rangers should at least listen.

In the meantime, it’s fun to think about it.  What’s your take on whether Eichel is worth it?  Let us know.