It’s becoming more and more evident as time passes on that Jack Eichel’s tenure with the Buffalo Sabres is coming to an end. TSN hockey insider Pierre LeBrun alluded to the fact it’s a matter of weeks, at this point, before Eichel is shipped off somewhere.
Reports and speculations seem to be coming out daily about potential landing spots for Eichel and potential trade partners for the Sabres. Even though their odds to land the Sabres captain aren’t particularly high, according to Odds Shark (as of May 26), one team sticks out as the most ideal trading partner for the Sabres: the Anaheim Ducks.
The Ducks have the assets to offer the Sabres that are worthy of consideration. The Ducks have one of the more highly touted prospect pools in the NHL, which includes defenseman Jamie Drysdale, as well as forwards Brayden Tracey, Jacob Perreault, Benoit-Olivier Groulx and Trevor Zegras. Not to mention, the Ducks also have the third overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.
So, what should the Sabres pluck from the Ducks?
The negotiations should start with Zegras and the third overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. Those are the two marquee items to gun for if you're in the shoes of Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams when talking an Eichel trade with Ducks general manager Bob Murray.
CapFriendly currently has the Ducks' projected cap space at $22.555 million heading into the offseason, but that's with a number of contracts yet to sign this offseason. However, given Eichel's $10 million cap hit and the money their likely going to give out to fill the roster, a trade involving Eichel for the third overall pick and Zegras can’t, nor should, happen in a straight-up fashion.
Extra pieces need to be added on Anaheim’s end to make the trade more enticing for the Sabres and mesh well with the Ducks’ salary cap. As for what those extra pieces are, that’s up for discussion. Again, the marquee pieces coming back from Anaheim in a trade for Eichel should be Zegras and the third overall selection. Nothing less.
Sidebar: in case you don’t know, Zegras was the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, two picks after the Sabres selected Dylan Cozens. Zegras is a center, who’s skillset favors playmaking and scoring goals similar to Eichel. Here’s highlights from his rookie season in the NHL, where he netted 13 points (3+10) in 24 games:
Is Zegras and the third overall selection in the draft asking a lot of Anaheim? Maybe, but this is Eichel we’re talking about. The player who was just in the MVP conversation not too long ago, who before last season put together four-consecutive seasons averaging over a point per-game, the team captain, etc. You get the point, he’s seemingly irreplaceable.
Now let’s say Buffalo and Anaheim work out the details and extra pieces, and the trade goes through tomorrow. Let’s take it a step further to the 2021 NHL Draft:
The Sabres now have the ability to draft Michigan defenseman Owen Power - the consensus first overall pick and top-ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting - and William Eklund - the top-ranked International skater by NHL Central Scouting. This assuming the Seattle Kraken don’t pass up Matthew Beniers and take Eklund with the second overall pick.
If the Sabres were to land Power and Eklund, that’s the top North American skater and top International skater the team would have in-house.
With the assets acquired and drafted in this hypothetical trade, Buffalo now has the opportunity to build around these players, who are all currently 22-years-old or younger:
- Trevor Zegras - 20 - Center
- Dylan Cozens - 20 - Center
- Casey Mittelstadt - 22 - Center (he showed positive signs last season, so let’s not totally give up on him yet)
- Jack Quinn - 19 - Right Wing
- J-J Peterka - 19 - Left Wing
- Owen Power - 18 - Defense
- William Eklund - 18 - Left Wing
- Rasmus Dahlin - 21 - Defense
- Henri Jokiharju - 22 - Defense
- Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen - 22 - Goalie
Not to mention this, the Sabres could add onto this already loaded young corps through trades the team could make by shipping out forward Sam Reinhart and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen this offseason.
The Sabres have an opportunity to make the best of a bad situation surrounding their captain. The team can do it by making a trade similar to this one, plus selections in the draft that would forecast the brightest future that Sabres fans have seen in *checks notes* 10 years.