The drumbeat of the NHL trade market is growing louder around the Vegas Golden Knights and embattled star center Jack Eichel. After months of Ross and Rachel, will they or won’t they chatter surrounding the Golden Knights, the injury situation may free general manager Kelly McCrimmon to pursue a blockbuster Golden Knights trade.
Those drums are getting louder. First to market with the report: Sportsnet reporter Elliotte Friedman, perhaps the most plugged-in puck reporter in the league, reported early Friday afternoon that the Vegas Golden Knights and Buffalo Sabres were in “serious” talks for Eichel.
Later Friday afternoon, multiple sources close to the situation who have kept Hockey Now in the loop for months confirmed to VHN that Golden Knights trade talks were indeed underway. However, one league source cautioned that the Golden Knights have competition.
“Don’t sleep on Calgary or Colorado,” the source said.
But as Friedman asserted, the Golden Knights are the front runner for the 25-year-old injured center who is forcing his way out of Buffalo, in part because of a disagreement over how to treat Eichel’s injured neck.
The Eichel camp wants an artificial disk replacement surgery. No NHL player has undergone the procedure before. The Buffalo Sabres and their doctors demanded a different method of treatment.
The stalemate has been exacerbated by Buffalo GM Kevyn Adams demanding a high trade price, which other GMs have labeled to Hockey Now as “insane.”
Eichel played only 21 games last season. One of the premier American players in the NHL scored 18 points (2-16-18) before bowing out of the regular season in March.
The Golden Knights have about $8 million of salary-cap space, according to our friends at PuckPedia.com. Eichel’s current cap hit is $10 million per season, and this is the fourth year of a max eight-year deal.
Even if acquired today, Eichel would likely need months of recovery. The Sabres have reportedly shared Eichel’s medical information with interested teams and medical staffs so interested parties know the situation.
If McCrimmon is in talks for Eichel, that most certainly means Golden Knights doctors approve of the artificial disk replacement procedure because the Eichel camp is firm on that demand.
The Golden Knights have first-round picks in each of the following three seasons, so fulfilling the draft pick requirement of Buffalo’s ask will not be an issue. Buffalo also wants a combination of top prospects, a young NHL defenseman, and a top-six forward under control.
The Golden Knights currently have Zach Whitecloud and Mark Stone on IR. Max Pacioretty and Alex Tuch are on LTIR, which is why the Golden Knights have enough cap space to engage in serious NHL trade talks.
VHN will update the story as more information becomes available.