Jack Eichel's career with the Buffalo Sabres could come to an end before the 2021-22 NHL season begins, and if he is traded during the summer, the move has the potential to significantly impact the balance of power in the league.
What's the latest update on Eichel's situation in Buffalo?
Here's what Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman wrote in his "31 Thoughts" column posted Saturday:
"There were rumours Jack Eichel backed away from the disc replacement surgery and would consider a fusion instead, but several sources refuted that. Not true. There was a time I thought a trade might happen sooner rather than later, but after the expansion draft looks more likely. Who’s in there? My guess is Anaheim, Calgary, Minnesota and Vegas, with Boston, the Rangers and possibly Los Angeles on the periphery.
"Tough to read the Kings on this one. The Sabres are looking for youth. High-level prospects and picks. The complicating part is Buffalo’s been very careful with Eichel’s medical records. They want to make sure trading partners are serious before allowing access."
Eichel is a legit superstar, No. 1 center and a face of the franchise-type player. So, what's the concern with trading for Eichel?
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He missed the last 33 games of the season with a herniated disk in his neck. It's not an insignificant injury. Eichel also has five years remaining on his contract with a salary cap hit of $10 million, which is a pretty large number, especially for someone coming off a neck injury.
Where do the Bruins fit in?
Well, it would be great story if the B's brought home a Massachusetts-born star. But the chances of a move actually happening seem fairly small. How so? First of all, the Bruins don't have many good trade assets. Boston's prospect pool is arguably the weakest in the league, which is the result of poor drafting and trading away recent first-round picks in 2018 and 2020, among other factors.
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It's also hard to imagine the Bruins pulling off an Eichel trade without including one of David Pastrnak or Charlie McAvoy. Pastrnak is an elite right winger and one of the league's best goal scorers, while McAvoy is a Norris Trophy-caliber defenseman. Eichel's contract is more expensive than either McAvoy's or Pastrnak's, and you could also make a case he is less durable than those two Bruins stars.
The reality is other teams can offer a better package of prospects and draft picks than the Bruins.
Maybe Eichel will play for the Bruins at some point in his career. It's just tough to envision a scenario in which that happens before next season.