This season, diehard VGK fan and legendary combat sports columnist Kevin Iole will be delivering columns a few times a month on Sundays. Today, Kevin wants the focus to shift off Jack Eichel, and on to another, cheaper center.
There is a balancing act that every NHL general manager must play, and trying to play it has to be causing Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon plenty of agita.
Jack Eichel, exactly the type of player the VGK have missed throughout its existence, is available on the trade market. When such a player was available in 2019, McCrimmon went out and landed Mark Stone.
When another such player was available as a free agent in 2020, McCrimmon opened owner Bill Foley’s wallet and signed Alex Pietrangelo.
Many websites, which are in the business of getting clicks and not necessarily reporting accurate news, have linked the VGK and Eichel. It’s obvious why, but it’s also just as obvious why it doesn’t make much sense for the Knights to do it.
The Knights would be responsible for a pro-rated portion of Eichel’s $10 million salary this year and then $10 million a year through the 2025-26 season. They already have Stone signed at $9.5 million, Pietrangelo at $8.8 million, Max Pacioretty at $7 million, William Karlsson at $5.9 million, Alec Martinez at $5.25 million, Shea Theodore at $5.2 million, Jonathan Marchessault, Evgeni Dadonov and Robin Lehner at $5 million apiece and Alex Tuch at $4.75 million for next season.
Even if the cap rises, and reports are it may jump minimally to $82.5 million, that would be $71.4 million with Eichel for next year for 11 players. So they’d have $11.1 million to spend on the rest of the group.
That becomes problematic because Zach Whitecloud’s $2.75 million extension kicks in and between Whitecloud, Nolan Patrick and backup goalie Laurent Brossoit, they will account for more than half of the extra, at $6.275 million combined.
On top of that, we haven’t exen discussed the acquisition cost, which will be enormous.
So it seems fanciful, at best, to write Eichel into the VGK’s lineup for the next four-plus years.
There is a player who is perfectly suited for the VGK, won’t cost nearly as much and who could give them that No. 1 center without breaking up the current roster that would make them a more solid Stanley Cup favorite.
Tomas Hertl would look fantastic between Stone and Pacioretty, and would allow Stephenson to slide down the lineup where, as Pete DeBoer noted after Friday’s up-and-down win over the Ducks, he gets favorable matchups.
Hertl is in the last year of a deal with the Sharks, and is making $5.625 million. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in the summer.