The Vegas Golden Knights are in win-now mode. The NHL trade market is whirring after Vegas Hockey Now, and others reported the Golden Knights are closing in on Jack Eichel but have competition from the Calgary Flames. GM Kelly McCrimmon has some salary cap space courtesy of a few LTIR designations and just might spend it on the prized get of the decade.
The Golden Knights Stanley Cup window is open, but they must compete with the stacked Colorado Avalanche for Western supremacy. The Golden Knights are not off to a great start this season, but injuries and a gutted locker room leadership hierarchy are to blame. The silver lining is motivation to make changes and the cap space to be aggressive in the right situation.
VHN+ and our ‘Off the Record’ column have been ahead of the curve on Eichel talks. Earlier this summer, we reported the Buffalo Sabres’ asking price. Some GMs later called the ask “insane.” You can catch up here.
The trade price is at least four pieces, including a first-round pick, top prospect, top-six forward, and NHL defenseman under 25-years-old.
Sabres GM Kevyn Adams didn’t ask for a firstborn, but it’s close.
Winning has built an organization and fanbase in Las Vegas. General manager Kelly McCrimmon and, before him, George McPhee have thrown everything at the wall. Incoming star players like Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and Alex Pietrangelo have kept the Vegas Golden Knights as Stanley Cup favorites.
But the biggest name of them all could be coming very soon.
The Golden Knights have been linked to Buffalo Sabres superstar center Jack Eichel for what feels like an eternity now. He wants out of Buffalo to get proper medical attention, and most importantly, to win.
Talks have heated up between the two sides recently on a potential Eichel deal. We are inching closer and closer to the inevitable trade. The frontrunners right now are the Golden Knights and division rival Calgary Flames.
But what exactly does this trade look like? How much are the Golden Knights willing to give up? How much CAN they give up for a player who will not be ready for several months because he wants to undergo an artificial disk replacement?
Vegas Golden Knights Trade Potentials
For a Golden Knights trade to work, McCrimmon must carefully maneuver the salary cap, which the team is already up against when fully healthy. Adding Eichel, who makes $10 million, is an impossibility without shedding salary, so the Golden Knights necessarily will send some salary to Buffalo.
And maybe more salary elsewhere in another trade.
The question is–who goes?
First, say goodbye to at least one, maybe two first-round picks. In all likelihood, the 2022 first-rounder is a goner in any deal.
Local speculation has centered on defenseman Shea Theodore. The Sabres want a legit top-four defenseman, and Theodore fits the description. However, Nic Hague may be a better possibility. The 6-foot-6 defenseman with broad shoulders and a heavy shot will be an RFA after this season. That cost control and lower cap hit could be far more attractive to the cost-conscious Buffalo Sabres than Theodore, who makes $5.2 million for three more seasons.
Perhaps we caught a glimpse of the Golden Knights preparing to lose a d-man when they signed Ben Hutton and Zach Whitecloud to new contracts on Oct 28. Buffalo must accept an NHL salary or salaries in return. If they insist on Hague, then Buffalo must accept salary on the forwards side of the deal.
Reilly Smith ($5 million) and Alex Tuch ($4.75 million)) seem to make sense. Tuch fits the bill for an affordable top-six capable forward in the proper age bracket. Buffalo has the cap space available to accept Tuch, then place him on LTIR until he’s healed from shoulder surgery. And he grew up in Buffalo.
The Sabres should want some a roster player as they are off to a surprising 5-1-1 start. There’s energy and optimism in Buffalo, so the chance to add to an energetic team can’t be ignored.
Smith, a pending UFA, could add to the Sabres forward group as a veteran scoring winger. His pending contract status is a detractor.
Here’s where it gets nearly impossible. The Golden Knights have to make the playoffs before they can contend for the Stanley Cup. They can’t afford to lose two top-six forwards and a top-four defenseman, and a first-round pick.
Surely, Adams must realize this. Perhaps Adam’s inability to make it work with others is why exasperated GMs called his asks insane.
Peyton Krebs is another name the Sabres will look at as a young forward with potential. Krebs has struggled in the NHL with only one point in 12 NHL games and none this year. However, the 20-year old has tremendous upside as the 17th overall pick in the 2019 draft.
If McCrimmon gets Buffalo to accept Theodore, Krebs could be the inexpensive player headed the other way or an enticement to accept a lesser player–Evgenii Dadonov instead of Smith?
Don’t sleep on Buffalo wanting Jonathan Marchessault, either.
Hypothetically speaking, if you do trade forwards like Krebs and Smith, the already injury-depleted forward corps would be worse off. Eichel will not join his new team until after his disk replacement surgery. The Golden Knights have already had to resort to playing defenseman at forward and recently claimed Michael Amadio off waivers for some forward help.
If the Vegas Golden Knights pull off the deal for Jack Eichel, it will forever be one of the biggest trades in franchise history, win or lose. Eichel, when healthy, is a superstar center and one of the best players in the National Hockey League.
But the consequences of trading away futures and depth pieces cannot set the team back further than the acquisition could set them forward.
Just how much roster shuffling can Jack Eichel replace when he gets healthy?