It’s time to put an end to the Jack Eichel to Vegas rumors once and for all.
Yes, I know, I wrote last month why the Golden Knights should acquire the injured and unhappy Buffalo Sabres center. And it made sense then.
It doesn’t now. The timing just isn’t right for a megadeal to happen.
If the Golden Knights are going to trade for someone, it should be for a player who can come into the lineup immediately, not four months from now. With Max Pacioretty out six weeks and Mark Stone expected to miss an unspecified amount of time, the Knights aren’t deep enough to let go of any players, particularly prospects (We see ya, Peyton Krebs). They’re fortunate to have gotten three of their bottom-six forwards back to help coach Peter DeBoer roll out four lines.
Last weekend, the 32 Thoughts podcast indicated that the Sabres would want Krebs in any deal with the Knights for Eichel. Under normal circumstances, you might be willing to part with the 2019 first-round draft pick. But when your top two scorers are out of your lineup and Krebs is going to get a chance to play regular minutes in the NHL, why would you let him go?
The Sabres have made it clear they are not willing to take on salary, so there goes the Reilly Smith-to-Buffalo theory. Maybe they’d be willing to take Alex Tuch, who is on LTIR following shoulder surgery in the offseason and is not expected back until January, close to the time Eichel might be able to play again. Tuch makes $4.75 million. Maybe Kevyn Adams can swallow that number given he’ll be shedding $10 million in salary if he trades Eichel and acquires Tuch, who is from Central New York and is a proven NHL player.
Would the Sabres take someone like a Daniil Miromanov or Pavel Dorofeyev as part of a compensation package for Eichel? Would Ivan Morozov, the Knights’ first selection in the 2018 NHL Draft who is currently playing in the KHL, be enough to sweeten the pot?
The Golden Knights have their first two picks in the NHL Draft for the next three years and they’d likely have to part with a combination of 2-3 of those as part of getting Eichel.
Then there’s the medical procedure itself. Are the Golden Knights truly comfortable with allowing Eichel to have the artificial disk replacement surgery instead of the fusion procedure? Have the Knights’ doctors had a chance to examine Eichel’s medical records? Have there been serious conversations with Pat Brisson, Eichel’s new agent, about the medical side of this?
We have no idea. The guess is there have been some discussions with both the Sabres and with Brisson.
Finally, there’s the money, which remains the biggest stumbling block. At whatever point Eichel is ready to be in the lineup, the Knights have to clear $10 million in cap space.
Someone suggested that the Knights go the Nikita Kucherov route, acquire Eichel, keep him on LTIR until the playoffs, when the cap does not apply, then play him on the top line.
Two problems with that. One, Eichel wants to play in the Olympics for the United States. Assuming he were healthy and able to represent the USA, it would mean he’s healthy enough to play in the NHL. So you couldn’t try and circumvent the cap by keeping a healthy player on LTIR. That won’t fly with the league office.
Two, you’re assuming the Golden Knights are making the playoffs. That may be a safe assumption, but given the team’s rocky start, it may not be the lock everyone believes it to be, though it’s hard to imagine them missing the postseason. But if the Knights did miss the playoffs, Eichel wouldn’t play until October 2022, which would be 19 months since his last NHL game. That’s a long time between shifts.
Which brings us back to the money. It would mean moving one or more veterans and that’s going to require finding a third team to help Vegas clear cap space to accommodate Eichel’s $10 million salary. But right now, with Pacioretty and Stone and Tuch unavailable, you can’t afford to move Smith or Jonathan Marchessault, each of who make $5 million. Remember, they’re going to have to find room to accommodate Tuch’s $4.75 million when he returns.
In other words, the math may be too tricky, even for someone as smart as George McPhee, the team’s president of hockey operations. And if that’s the case, it’s time to quit kicking the tires and walk away from the dealership. Let Adams try and fleece someone else.