With speculation that Vegas is gearing up to make a run at Jack Eichel, would the Knights be the best fit for the Sabres captain? James Duthie, Dave Poulin, Jeff O'Neill, and Ray Ferraro weigh in.
Duthie: No matter who signs today, the biggest news guaranteed today, if it happens, would be a Jack Eichel trade. There’s certainly no guarantee that is going to happen. The Sabres said they’ll take their time. Look, they’ve said publically they would go to camp with Jack Eichel. That’s not going to happen. I think we expect a trade to go down sometime likely in the next few days. But that would be the biggest news of Free Agent Frenzy if Jack Eichel does indeed leave the Sabres for somewhere else on this day. Vegas, there’s a lot of talk and MJ was giving subtle hints. What’s the best fit for Eichel for that team?
Poulin: Well, Vegas will have a chance to win. I think of three spots. I think of Anaheim, I think of L.A. because of the wealth of youth that they have drafted over the last couple years. They’ve got some top, top prospects in both organizations. But are they that close to winning? Jack Eichel has some say in this as well and his camp does. Vegas is sneaky because we’re not really sure what they’re doing. And James, it’s so clear to me. I sat with Bill Foley before he played his first game in the NHL, having dinner one night, there were five of us at dinner, and said, ‘We’ll win the Cup in six years.’ Well it’s been four, he almost won it in the first year. He’s been there every year. So is he going to keep pressing to say we have to get it done? If he does, then that might make sense, you know, where Jack Eichel would end up. I still think it’s going to be the west coast because they have the talent to give up. I don’t think Vegas has the players to get it done.
Duthie: The Kings and the Ducks, completely loaded with good, young assets and first rounders they’ve just picked.
O’Neill: I’d love to see him in a different environment. I look at Jack Eichel and obviously there’s the physical talent. He’s a guy that can score 35 goals, he can get you 80 points in the National Hockey League. But I don’t see him as a captain of a team and right now, and Craig Button has witnessed the transition of Mike Modano, where it’s a talented player that put up points, he was never really known as a competitor. We talked about Victor Hedman, all the things he does to help his team win games. All this guy is right now is uber-talented offensively, scores goals, put up points. I haven’t loved his body language in Buffalo – if you really pay attention to the detail of his games playing in Buffalo. But it’s been a miserable situation in Buffalo, so I’d love to see him in a different environment around different people and different leaders to see what he could bring to the table.
Duthie: Let’s bring in Ray Ferraro on this. Would the neck injury concern you at all?
Ferraro: Well, I’ll say yes because I don’t have any information on it. I mean, if you’re a team James, this is such a complicating factor as you look to acquire Jack Eichel. I think, as Johnny and Craig were talking earlier, he is certainly one of the top 10 centres in the league. He’s big, he can skate and he can score. I think he’ll be a much better player in a different environment. Yet you still have to square up the fact that there’s $10 million owed over the next five or so years on Jack Eichel’s contract. Physically, is he going to be able to play as effectively as he has in the past, given his injury concern? And so I’m not making a deal and, of course, these other teams aren’t either until they have some satisfaction as to his health status. Now, the New York Rangers have been rumoured as well as being interested in Eichel. But the only way that can work is if they off-load Mika Zibanejad. Zibanejad has had a couple of incredible years, really in the prime of his career. But he’s 29 years old. Do you buy four years of youth of Eichel but you still have to move Zibanejad? You can’t re-sign Zibanejad at $10 million and bring in Eichel at the same. You got an $81 million cap. You can’t do it. So, while Poulie talks about the west coast teams being interesting because of all of their youth, and I really think that is really a factor that has to be considered. You cannot win without a top-line centre. We talk about it all the time. I don’t really agree with it, copycat league, but one thing is true. You don’t win without a top centre. If you’re a good team and Jack Eichel is available, I think you have to really look.
Duthie: I feel for Buffalo fans. I mean, we have for awhile now in this latest decade of losing. I’m not sure what return is going to excite the Buffalo fanbase, no matter what you get back, because they’ve just watched guy after guy leave. Reinhart’s gone again this year, Ristolainen, and Dahlin sitting there.
Poulin: You have to win. That’s the bottom line. You have to win to make guys stay.
Duthie: But it’s going to be another four or five years before they have a chance at winning now.
Poulin: I know, but if they get a good group of young guys together – it’s like Columbus, they say, ‘Why won’t people stay in Columbus?’ I’ve been to Columbus many times, it’s a great town. Everything about is great. The arena is great, the downtown is great. They can’t get guys to stay because they don’t win. When you win, that’s when guys want to stay in a town. It’s going to be the same in Buffalo. You talk to guys, and there is one in the back, Marty Biron, he’s chosen to live his life in Buffalo because he likes it there, who played there.
Duthie: A remarkable number of players stay in Buffalo.
Poulin: Because they have a good experience when they win.
O’Neill: Maybe Marty is the reason they don’t want to go to Buffalo.
Duthie: That makes a lot of sense. It’s a factor anyway.
Ferraro: Maybe no other cities will take Marty.
O’Neill: Another factor.
Duthie: We only let him come in for a day at a time here. Ray, I didn’t let you in on the first part of the conversation. Did you have a best fit in your mind for Eichel? Or who maybe needs Eichel the most who can actually afford to get him?
Ferraro: Well, I think Vegas makes the most sense because two years in a row they’ve had a really good team and they get to a point where they can’t score. And you can’t score because the middle of the ice is not strong enough for them, in my opinion. However, I think it’s a really complicated deal for Vegas to make, as they’ve acquired Dadonov. Is that part of a deal going to Buffalo? It just doesn’t quite seem to be as readily available. The L.A. Kings have a bucket load of young prospects. I mean a load of them. They’ve done it for a couple years, Rob Blake and his staff with Nelson Emerson, have helped grow this prospect pool. Eventually, you’ve got to turn the prospect pool into players that can play. You can’t keep waiting for the young guys. If you have enough of them, you try and cherry-pick the ones you want to keep and you have a player like Eichel available, I think you can make that move. L.A. makes a lot of sense to me.
O’Neill: I don’t really care where he plays or the best fit. But he’s the American kid, you look at the New York Rangers, and you want to say, ‘You want the spotlight? You want to get out of Buffalo? Stay in the same state but go to the New York Rangers.’ Man, there would be a fit. That would be something for him to see if he can kind of turn that organization around.