Point, and counterpoint. Earlier this week, my new and valued colleague Steve Carp advocated the Vegas Golden Knights roll the dice and hit the NHL trade market for the big fish still on ice, Jack Eichel. It would fill a pressing need for the Golden Knights and be the most exciting thing to happen since the final pick of the 2017 expansion draft.
You remember who that was, eh?
But no, nope, hell no should the Golden Knights let those NHL trade winds carry Eichel west to the desert. The situation has significantly changed from early in the summer, and it’s in the Golden Knights’ favor.
Let’s start with the trade cost for Eichel. Another Hockey Now colleague Jimmy Murphy first reported the Buffalo Sabres price tag was four pieces, including a top prospect, a number one pick, and NHL players. Or multiple No. 1 picks. Or multiple top prospects.
Or an arm. A leg. Your firstborn.
“We’re talking a top-six center 25 years or under, a top 4 defenseman 25 or under, a first-round pick, and an assortment of three prospects,” the source, who was since confirmed correct, said in June. “In this market and with so many teams trying to build from within because of the cap, how is (Buffalo) going to get that? Then, you don’t even know how Jack’s back will hold up.”
Given the Golden Knights’ success, the first-round pick and Reilly Smith are fair asks. As is one of Nicolas Hague and Peyton Krebs. But both?
Buffalo Sabres GM Kevyn Adams has shown no signs of relenting, either. Eichel fired his agents for high-powered Pat Brisson, who reps Sidney Crosby and others.
No dice. More meetings, more pleading, more public pressure. Nada.
That’s just fine for the Golden Knights.
In case you haven’t noticed, the Golden Knights average age is creeping up…and up. Eventually, fresh troops are needed, lest you’re looking forward to a few losing seasons. To acquire Eichel would erase the Golden Knights’ future.
If Eichel were a guaranteed superstar, you might say yes.
But Eichel’s back is already in tatters. Essentially the Boston-born star wants a back fusion for a herniated disc, which is scary enough. More scary is the lack of precedent for a hockey player to undergo the procedure he wants.
A boatload for a player who needs to undergo an unproven procedure?
Vegas Golden Knights Salary Cap & Other Options
Another equal reason to say no is the few top-six centers that could well hit the NHL trade market or be available in free agency next summer. It’s the long game, but the Golden Knights have the depth and talent to compete now, and they can wait.
Those are the centers that can put up good numbers who may, or may not, be available by next summer.
Lastly, there is a salary cap in the NHL. The Vegas Golden Knights currently can’t afford a free lunch. They certainly cannot add a $10 million player without moving significant salary.
Perhaps if Buffalo accepted Reilly Smith AND some combination of salary holdback and NHL players, which equaled $5 million, it could work. But does anyone think that’s realistic?
Adams is holding the line.
Sure, if Buffalo comes down on the price for Jack Eichel, that would change the equation again. But it indeed doesn’t look like it. Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon would do well to shed salary in an Eichel trade or get a true No. 1 center.
It takes two to tango, and the Buffalo Sabres aren’t in a dancing mood.
The cost is too steep. The risk is too great. The salary doesn’t work. There will be others who can fill the spot for much less.
No on Eichel.