The Jack Eichel era in Buffalo is finally over.
The Sabres are trading the three-time All-Star centre and former team captain to the Vegas Golden Knights, ending what had become a contentious relationship between player and team.
Forwards Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs, a 2022 first-round pick and a second-round pick in 2023 are going back to the Sabres, who will send a 2023 third-round pick along with Eichel to Vegas.
The first-round pick heading to Buffalo is top-10 protected for next year's draft, while TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger adds the Sabres retained no salary on Eichel's $10 million cap hit. If Vegas’ first-tound draft pick in the 2022 NHL Draft is a top-10 pick (following the Draft Lottery results) then, Vegas will transfer its own first-round pick (unprotected) in the 2023 NHL Draft and its own second-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft to Buffalo, while the Sabres will transfer their own third-round pick in 2024 to Vegas.
Tuch has not played this season after undergoing shoulder surgery in late July. He was given a six-month timeline for recovery after the operation. The 25-year-old, who is signed at a cap hit of $4.75 through the 2025-26 season, had 18 goals and 33 points in 55 games last season.
Krebs, 20, is without a point in nine games with the Golden Knights this season. He was selected 17th overall by Vegas in the 2019 NHL Draft. He had one assist in four games with the Golden Knights last season, posting one goal and five points in five AHL games with the Henderson Silver Knights, and 13 goals and 43 points in 24 WHL games with the Winnipeg Ice.
Eichel set for his surgery
The 24-year-old Eichel remains sidelined with a neck injury he’s been dealing with since last March. Limited to 21 games last season, Eichel had two goals and 18 points.
Though Eichel expressed discontentment over his team's lengthy playoff drought in the spring of 2020 (“I’m fed up with the losing and I’m fed up and I’m frustrated,” the North Chelmsford, MA native said at the time), most of what Eichel called a "disconnect" between the player and the Sabres in May comes from how to treat the herniated disc in his neck.
While Eichel wished to undergo disc replacement surgery, the Sabres balked at the idea and favoured fusion surgery, citing the fact that no NHL player had ever undergone the replacement procedure before.
Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon confirmed Thursday Eichel will have the disc replacement procedure. McCrimmon said Eichel is expected to recover in three to five months.
With Eichel's injury still untreated, he failed his physical prior to the start of the season and was stripped of his captaincy with the Sabres by general manager Kevyn Adams.
In an effort to speed along a move away from the Sabres, Eichel made a change in representation in September, hiring agent Pat Brisson.
Selected second overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft out of Boston University, Eichel has appeared in 375 career games with the Sabres over six seasons, scoring 139 goals and adding 216 assists.
In the fall of 2017, Eichel signed an eight-year, $80 million extension with the Sabres, leaving four years after the current season remaining on his deal.
Internationally, Eichel has represented the United States on a number of occasions, including as part of a bronze medal-winning effort at the 2015 IIHF World Hockey Championships in the Czech Republic.
Cap Crunch Coming?
Adding Eichel's $10 million salary brings the Golden Knights to $78.74 million committed towards next season's $81.5 million salary cap with just 11 players under contract, per CapFriendly.
Forwards Reilly Smith and Mattias Janmark, along with defenceman Brayden McNabb are all slated for unrestricted free agency next summer, while seven players on their current NHL roster are slated for restricted free agency.
Eichel will become the 11th member of the Golden Knights carrying a cap hit of $5 million or more, his $10 million salary is the team's highest, ahead of Mark Stone ($9.5M AAV), Alex Pietrangelo ($8.8M AAV) and Max Pacioretty ($7 million AAV).