Saying goodbye to the Eichel saga

Eichel traded to Golden Knights for Tuch, Krebs, and picks

Eichel lands in Vegas

What’s Happening: Since suffering a herniated disc in his neck on March 7, 2021, things did not go well between Jack Eichel and the Sabres. After his injury, Eichel sought a second opinion from an independent doctor who recommended artificial disk replacement—a surgery that has never been performed on an NHLer. Thereafter, over a month was spent—likely with substantial communication and numerous disagreements between Eichel and the Sabres—before it was announced on April 14 that Eichel would be out for the remainder of the 2020-21 season.

As we all know, surgery never happened when it should have since “the NHL's collective bargaining agreement gives teams final authority over their players' injury recoveries, and the Sabres used that power to decline Eichel's desired surgery.” Come the start of this season, with the situation still unresolved, Eichel failed his pre-season physical, was stripped of his captaincy, and remained on the sidelines. Then finally, at just over 10 games into the season, the trade that would end it finally took place. And as we expected, what was required was finding a team that would approve Eichel’s desired surgery and could give the Sabres a sufficient return for the young star.

The Trade: You probably already know that the Buffalo Sabres have traded Eichel (and a 2023 conditional 3rd round pick) to the Vegas Golden Knights. In exchange for Eichel’s 139 Goals and 355 Points through 375 Games, the Sabres get back winger Alex Tuch, center Peyton Krebs, a 2022 conditional 1st round pick, and a 2023 conditional 2nd round pick.

A 2014 1st round pick, Tuch has 61 Goals and 139 Points over 255 Regular Season Games and is known for his important post-season contributions, including 19 Goals and 33 Points through 66 Playoff Games. Krebs, a 2019 1st round pick and Canadian World Junior silver medalist, hasn’t cracked an NHL roster spot yet with only 1 Point through 13 NHL games. However, having produced 62 Goals and 231 Points in 199 WHL Games and being over a point-per-game through 8 Games in the AHL, it seems like it’s only a matter of time.

Our Take: There’s a lot to unpack in analyzing this trade. Buffalo receives decent value in Tuch with a $4.75 Million cap hit for five more years and 0.27 Goals and 0.60 Points per Game over the past three seasons. Also, quality right-shooting wingers are harder to come by, so that adds to his value. Krebs’ salary also has good value with three years left on his entry-level contract. But due to his age, Krebs’ greatest value is in his potential and the fact that he was drafted as a center. Adding to these players the conditional picks, the Sabres got a decent return for Eichel, especially since everyone knew the team would be forced to trade him.

Conversely, the Golden Knights clearly got the best player in Eichel. Over the past three seasons, Eichel has averaged a stellar 0.40 Goals and 1.07 Points per Game (29th and 17th overall, respectively). Where his value may slip slightly is in his cap hit, at $10 Million for five more years; that is, tons of other players have the same or better performance at the same or a lesser cap hit and a salary this high limits a team’s ability to fill out their roster with quality players. Also, while we hope that Eichel will fully recover from his surgery, a bad neck at 25 years old would have us concerned about the long-term value of our asset.

Altogether, the Sabres appear to win the trade from a long-term value for value standpoint. However, with the Sabres near the bottom of the Atlantic Division standings (again), how can you say they’ve really won anything? After all, winning the Stanley Cup is the goal and, on paper, the Golden Knights may be better than ever.

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