In a hockey season full of uncertainty, one thing was definitely guaranteed. That is that the Buffalo Sabres were a dumpster fire. Jack Eichel was one of a few players that suffered on that team this year. In a place as bad as Buffalo, there’s no surprise that Eichel would want out. Trade rumors started flying throughout the season. One frontrunner to get Eichel is the New York Rangers, whose main need is one more star center. Eichel is a star who would certainly thrive under the lights at MSG, but should the Rangers really pursue him?
Eichel’s Player Breakdown
Jack Eichel was drafted 2nd overall in the 2015 NHL draft by the Buffalo Sabres. Along with the first overall selection, Connor McDavid, both players had to carry high expectations. Jack Eichel excelled in his years before the draft in the USA Development Program, as well as Boston University. He has an incredible skill set in all aspects of a forward and an extremely high hockey IQ. He came out of the draft with an ability to excel at the NHL level immediately.
In his first year as a Sabre, he proved exactly why he was drafted so high. As a rookie, he put up 56 points in 81 games. He had an xGF of 46.4 and an OPS 4.9 which are both stellar as a rookie. Jack Eichel was average defensively that year, but that can be written off. In his next year, he put up similar stats in 20 fewer games. He continued to play at this high level and cement himself rightfully as a top player in the NHL.
The last year, however, was not a standard Eichel season. The Sabres were the joke of the league this year, going on an 18 game winless streak and having the worst record in the NHL. Eichel only played 21 games and was sidelined long term for a herniated disk in his neck. This offseason he wants to have a surgery no hockey player has ever had before. His injury problems pose a big concern, especially with his $10 million caps hit.
So is he worth it? With his salary and injury concerns, it’s hard to say that he’s worth a trade. Even though he’s an amazing player, he wouldn’t be worth a huge package because of those things.
What Would a Trade Package Look Like?
There’s no doubt that Eichel is a superstar. Even with his injuries, he’s a great player and would demand a high return. The most realistic package for Eichel would be two firsts, Filip Chytil, a prospect such as Tarmo Reunanen or Nils Lundkvist, and a veteran talent such as Ryan Strome or Pavel Buchnevich. Vitali Kravtsov is another player that could be in a deal for Eichel in place of Lundkvist.
While Rangers fans may not like it, if they want Eichel, this is the most realistic trade that both sides would take. Obviously, this would be a loss for the Rangers. Chytil is a valuable young center that has the potential to be a solid top 6. If the Rangers trade for Eichel that also would mean the end of Strome’s tenure in NY because they would be unable to sign him. Vitali Kravtsov showed that he has star potential, and Buchnevich was a key component of the offense. Regardless of how good Eichel is, it wouldn’t be worth it, especially with his injury concerns and monster cap hit.
Another popular proposal is to include Kaapo Kakko or Alexis Lafreniere in the deal. If any team makes an offer for either player, it should be shut down. Both players are untouchables for the Rangers.
Fans of any team are always going to want their GM to win trades. Many mock trades come off as unrealistic because fans are afraid of giving up too much. Hypothetically, there are ways that the Rangers could win a Jack Eichel trade, but it would depend on the Sabres. Their GM, Kevyn Adams, is known for getting the bad end of trades. The Taylor Hall trade this year is a prime example of Adams making the wrong move. If Chris Drury can fleece him and give the Rangers a steal, here’s what it would look like.
Lundkvist, Buchnevich, and 2 Firsts would be a steal. Lundkvist is a good prospect, but the Rangers have so many strong d prospects already, so losing him for Eichel isn’t bad. Buchnevich is good, but Eichel is definitely an upgrade. And with a trade like that, the Rangers would be in contention, so the firsts wouldn’t be super valuable. This is an unlikely deal, but a deal that would be a huge win for the Rangers.
Alternate Options at Center
The Rangers want to pursue Eichel because they need a star center. However, there’s a certain Finnish center down in Florida who would be an even better fit than Eichel. Aleksander Barkov is a UFA at the end of the year, and banking on the false hope that Florida doesn’t resign him, the Rangers could get him. He would make less than Eichel, have fewer injury problems than Eichel, and possibly produce more. He also would require a trade if he enters the market this offseason.
The problem is if he does enter the market. Florida had an unseen season this year, and are serious contenders for the Stanley Cup. It’s unlikely he leaves, considering how much Florida would be willing to pay to keep him. But if by some miracle he enters the market the Rangers should go all-in on Barkov.
Another big-name center that could do well in NY is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Hopkins is set to enter free agency this offseason, and it’s less likely that the Oilers will pay him, given that they have McDavid and Leon Draisaitl already. He’d also come at a slightly cheaper cost than both Eichel and Barkov would, and would have less interference with lines, allowing Zibanejad to stay on the first line while he plays the second line.
Should The Rangers Try For Eichel?
The short answer to this question is no. As previously mentioned, a trade for Eichel would have the Rangers giving up way too much for a player who has a huge contract and injury concerns. Disk injuries have the potential to linger, and there are a lot of questions about the surgery he wants to get.
The Rangers also have lots of talent and should build from within. They can resign Strome for less money to be their second-line center again, as he played out of his mind last year. Kakko, Chytil, Lafreniere, and Kravtsov all have a ton of room to grow. All of those young forwards will be stars in a few years and will bring a lot to the offense as Eichel would. The Rangers have the potential to be good in a year or so even without Eichel, so why not trust the process? Even if Eichel would be a nice addition, it just wouldn’t be worth it for the Rangers.