I’ve been avoiding this topic for weeks and my plan was to continue to avoid it until it inevitably goes away. But… then I heard Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek mention it on the 31 Thoughts Podcast and I figured, ok why the heck not. Let’s explore it, give it a real look. Does it actually make sense? Heck, is it even possible?
I’m sort of assuming that the Eichel talk is going to heat up more than it already has. -Jeff Marek
Now I’ve had a couple people tell me that might not happen until after the Expansion Draft. And I do think this, I think Vegas is sniffing around Eichel. -Elliote Friedman
Not a surprise at all. I don’t know how they do it. A) To get the cap space and B) To make the assets available to Buffalo to make it happen. -Marek
I do think they’re looking at this, I do. –Friedman on 31 Thoughts Podcast
As Marek suggests, to make it happen, the Golden Knights will have to do it in two parts. First, they’ll have to make the trade to acquire Jack Eichel, which will not be cheap, and second, they’ll have to maneuver their way back under the cap after adding his $10 million cap hit.
We’ll start with the easier of the two, which for the Golden Knights is getting the player himself out of Buffalo. Due to the public clarity which surrounds Eichel’s eagerness to depart, the trade price is actually going to be quite a bit lower than what it would otherwise be for a player of his caliber.
This certainly does not mean it will be cheap though. When they do move Eichel, the Sabres will be looking at a lengthy rebuild which means they’ll likely prefer either draft assets, prospects, or young players that will still be around when Buffalo is ready to win. This unfortunately is the place where the VGK system is least equipped.
As far as the draft, the Golden Knights hold the 30th (1st round) and 36th (NJD’s 2nd round) picks in the 2021 Draft. They also have 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round picks for every subsequent Draft.
The prospect pool still holds a few valuable pieces. Peyton Krebs is at the top of the list as an NHL-ready player who has a chance to be a top-line center. Brendan Brisson, Vegas’ 2020 1st rounder, is still a bit away from cracking the NHL, but he’s a bonafide scorer who could become a power play weapon. Behind those two would be defenseman Kaedan Korczak, a 2019 2nd round pick. He’s certainly on the brink of being NHL ready and projects to be a middle-pair d-man with the possibility to be even more. Finally, a pair of Russian forwards may hold some value. Pavel Dorofeyev and Ivan Morozov are both looking like NHL-level talents and could be seen as attractive to the Sabres.
Then, there’s the young crop of NHLers. The lead dogs in this group are Alex Tuch, who is from the northern New York area, and Shea Theodore who is about to turn 26 and has finished 6th in back-to-back Norris votes. Both are locked up under manageable contracts and each would instantly become one of the best players on the Sabres roster if dealt for Eichel. Nic Roy, Keegan Kolesar, Nic Hague, and Zach Whitecloud would be the final group that could make sense, but none hold massive value and each would represent another piece the Golden Knights have to replace if included.
In the end, it probably costs a piece from each of the groups or multiple picks and a prospect. So, here are a few ideas…
Eichel for 2021 1st, Kaedan Korczak, and Alex Tuch
Eichel for 2021 1st, 2022 1st, Ivan Morozov, and Nic Roy
Eichel for 2021 1st, Peyton Krebs, and Nic Hague
Eichel for 2021 2nd, Pavel Dorofeyev, and Shea Theodore
Eichel for 2021 1st, 2021 2nd, 2022 1st, and Brendan Brisson
Yes, it looks like a massive ask, but this is Jack Eichel we’re talking about. On a team with Mark Stone, Alex Pietrangelo, Max Pacioretty, and reigning Vezina winner Marc-Andre Fleury, Eichel would instantly become the undisputed best player and the new face of the franchise. Losing Tuch, Theodore, or even a boatload of picks would be tough, but it’s nothing compared to adding one of the best players in the NHL to an already stacked team that has been to three conference finals in four years.
If it were just the trade, and that’s it, Vegas would be out of their mind to not accept any of those five offers in a heartbeat. But, it’s not. There’s still a salary cap to think about.
Again, Eichel is set to cost $10 million against the cap each of the next five years. In those five seasons, the Golden Knights also have Mark Stone ($9.5m), Alex Pietrangelo ($8.8m), William Karlsson ($5.9m), Shea Theodore ($5.2m), and Alex Tuch ($4.75m) all tied up, plus Jonathan Marchessault ($5m) and Robin Lehner ($5m) are locked in for the next three and four years respectively. If VGK keep every one of those players and add Eichel, that would be $54.15m or 66% of the salary cap committed to just 8 players. That leaves $27.35m to pay for at least 13 more players including 11 starters. And that’s for the next three, four, and five years down the road, without the salary cap rising at all for much of that time.
As of right now, the Golden Knights have about $76m of the $81.5m salary cap already committed to players for next season (and that’s without Alec Martinez, Tomas Nosek, or Mattias Janmark).
So, say they were to add Eichel without moving any money off the NHL roster. For 2021-22, they’d have to find about $7 million to shed off the salary cap, would definitely not be able to re-sign any of the key free agents, and would be replacing one forward and one defenseman with a minimum salary player.
Obviously, the easiest path to making that happen would be to move a goalie. But, if they opt to go a different route, it might mean multiple Misfits have to go, or maybe Tuch and McNabb, or Theodore and Reaves. There are plenty of ways to do it, but no matter what it requires Vegas to part ways with a massive package to get Eichel and then sell off usable players for pennies on the dollar to once again become cap compliant.
Things get a lot easier if a player like Tuch or Theodore are included in the deal but there would still likely need to be another player or two moved out as well.
All in all, it absolutely is possible for the Golden Knights to pull off yet another blockbuster and bring in Eichel. But, the price is not going to be cheap and VGK would be committing to a completely new outlook both in 2021 and beyond if they were to make the deal.