BUFFALO, N.Y. [WKBW] — Jack Eichel's days with the Buffalo Sabres could soon be coming to an end. With the 2021 NHL Draft beginning on Friday, this could be the most opportunistic time for general manager Kevyn Adams to part ways with the Sabres captain.
But what teams could be targeting Eichel?
Let's look at five potential suitors and what the return could like for the Sabres:
The Sabres continue to navigate the Jack Eichel trade waters. Told the price hasn’t changed: 2 NHL players, 2 top prospects and/or a 1st round pick(s) - minimum 4 assets.— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) July 20, 2021
BUF also hasn’t made a decision on his surgery yet, likely will be end of month if he’s still on the team.
New York Rangers
For months, Rangers fans have been taking to social media to put together their ideal trade package for Eichel. Whether or not Eichel ends up in the Big Apple remains to be seen but he would surely be the star center the Rangers have been searching for that could put the team over the top. It's hard not to love the look of a roster that features Eichel, Artemi Panarin, and Adam Fox.
Notice I didn't mention Alexis Lafrenière? Well, that's because he should be the target for the Sabres in any deal. Rangers fans will scoff at the idea that the blue shirts would move Lafrenière but Adams needs to be asking for their top prospect. Chances are, former Sabres captain Chris Drury won't budge on Lafrenière, which brings us to defenseman K'Andre Miller and winger Kaapo Kakko.
In my opinion, one of those two players must be included in any deal for Eichel, along with their first-round pick [15th overall] and goaltender Igor Shesterkin. Filip Chytil is another interesting name from the Rangers but feels like he belongs just behind Miller and Kakko in terms of prospects from New York.
Rangers acquire: Jack Eichel
Sabres acquire: Igor Shesterkin, Kaapo Kakko, 15th overall pick
From the moment the Eichel trade chatter started, the Ducks began popping up. With a jam-packed cupboard of prospects and the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, no team may be better suited than Anaheim to make a push for the Sabres superstar center.
For the Sabres, these talks should start and end with the Ducks' top selection. If Anaheim is willing to move the third pick, the Sabres should be kicking tires. If the third pick isn't available, Adams should hang up the phone.
But just the third pick certainly isn't enough for Eichel. According to multiple reports, the Sabres want at least four assets in any deal involving Eichel, as they should.
The most popular name Sabres fans have added to their wish list is 2019 first-round pick Trevor Zegras. In 24 games with the Ducks last season, Zegras had three goals and 13 points. He's considered by many to be the top prospect in the Ducks organization and would be a solid piece for the Sabres in any trade.
The same can be said for 2020 first-round pick Jamie Drysdale. The 19-year-old defenseman had three goals and five assists in 24 games with the Ducks last season. In the AHL, Drysdale had an impressive 10 points in 14 games.
If Anaheim isn't willing to move Zegras or Drysdale, the Sabres could absolutely benefit from a player like Max Comtois. The 22-year-old winger is coming his best NHL season when he posted 16 goals and 17 assists in 55 games. For a player still just breaking into the league, those are really impressive numbers.
Adams should be asking for Zegras or Drysdale, but a deal that includes the third overall pick and Comtois is very intriguing.
Ducks acquire: Jack Eichel
Sabres acquire: No. 3 pick, Max Comtois, & Adam Henrique
Los Angeles Kings
Sticking in California, the Los Angeles Kings are another team with a strong pipeline that could make a push for Eichel. There have been reports that have said the Kings aren't interested in Eichel, but you have to imagine they'd change their tune if the price is right.
Like Anaheim, the Kings own a premium pick in the upcoming draft [eighth overall]. Los Angeles also has highly-touted prospects Quinton Byfield and Alex Turcotte. LA also has Arthur Kaliyev, whom they selected with the 33rd pick in the 2019 draft.
Of the three, Byfield appears to be the most promising prospect. But he's also not someone the Kings are looking to move. If he's unavailable, the Sabres should look elsewhere.
Kings acquire: Jack Eichel
Sabres acquire: Alex Turcotte, Arthur Kaliyev, 8th overall pick
Vegas Golden Knights
Vegas needs a center. That was evident in the playoffs as they were sent home by the Montreal Canadiens in the semifinals. With an already stacked roster, Eichel would make them one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup next season. Heck, they're already one of the favorites without Eichel.
Vegas doesn't have as many intriguing prospects as some of the teams we've already discussed but that doesn't necessarily eliminate them from the conversation. If the Knights are willing to part ways with Alex Tuch, who grew up down I-90 in Syracuse, the Sabres could be adding a strong forward that would make an immediate impact.
But just Tuch wouldn't be enough. Vegas would also need to include their top remaining prospect, Peyton Krebs, who was taken with the 17th pick in the 2019 draft.
Knights acquire: Jack Eichel
Sabres acquire: Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs, 30th overall pick
When it was announced that Minnesota was buying out the contracts of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise it immediately made me wonder if they were about to make a push for Eichel. Like many teams on this list, Minnesota is looking for a player that can push them over the top and Eichel fits the bill.
Marco Rossi and Matt Boldly are two of the top prospects in the Wild organization. Expecting Minnesota to part ways with both players seems unrealistic, so it would be safe to assume the Sabres would only be able to add one of Rossi or Boldly. Despite his battle with COVID-19 last season, Rossi would be the player I'd target if I were in Adams' position.
The Wild have some strong options for the Sabres when it comes to NHL-ready players, and in any deal, they would likely need to include at least someone that could help Buffalo next season. Goaltender Kappo Kahkonen would immediately compete for the Sabres starting job and Kevin Fiala is a 24-year-old winger coming off a 40 point season. Fiala is an RFA and will get a hefty pay-raise, making him a candidate to be moved, especially if Minnesota is going to add Eichel, who is on the books for $10 million.
Wild acquire: Jack Eichel
Sabres acquire: Marco Rossi, Kevin Fiala, Kappo Kahkonen, 26th overall pick [from PIT]
Bove's final thoughts:
Now before everyone goes and grabs their pitchforks, I realize these returns aren't quite what some fans were expecting. Prior to his neck injury, I believed Jack Eichel was one of the top 10 or 15 best players in the NHL with the potential to keep getting better. I still believe that's the case but his injury is a red flag for a lot of teams.
If Adams doesn't get a worthwhile offer, he can certainly keep Eichel and try and figure things out. But I believe we're past the point of things working out between the Sabres and their captain.
For what it's worth, the proposed trade with Minnesota is the one I see as the most valuable.
Buckle up, this is going to be a crazy week.