Jack Eichel is not a happy man. Missing the NHL Playoffs for each of the first five seasons of your career will do that to you.
At the premature end to the 2019-20 NHL Regular Season, the Buffalo Sabres were sixth in the Atlantic division and 13 points out of a playoff spot with 13 games having been left to play under normal circumstances, but with a sub .500 points percentage, they finished in 13th spot in the East, just behind Montreal who had played in two more games and in those two games had one extra win and one extra overtime loss.
In a conference call with the media on Thursday, the Sabres center sounded off with his Sabres are once again on the outside looking in at the playoffs – probably doubly frustrated that the Sabres couldn’t make it into the qualifying round of an expanded summer playoff that includes the top 12 teams in each conference.
“Listen, I’m fed up with the losing and I’m fed up and I’m frustrated. You know, it’s definitely not an easy pill to swallow right now. It’s been a tough couple of months. It’s been a tough five years with where things have [gone]”
Eichel did continue on in the call to praise his coach, the widely respected Ralph Kruger who was in his first year with Buffalo, and he did state that he is already planning for next season, but the Sabres have languished in mediocrity for so long now that it’s hard to imagine them turning it around anytime soon. Their playoff drought is nine seasons long and the last time the Sabres won a playoff series was 13 years ago in the 2006-07 season.
All Jack has done in his first five seasons is post 20+ goals each season, and has averaged 0.95 points per game over his career despite not having a whole lot of help around him. For as much grief as we’ve given the Edmonton Oilers for wasting the talent of Connor McDavid, or the Toronto Maple Leafs for not helping Auston Matthews past the first round of the playoffs, the real crime is that Eichel’s talent doesn’t anywhere near the attention it should from the national media because of where he plays, and how poorly his team has performed.
It also stands to reason that while he likely wasn’t trying to suggest anything of the sort, Eichel’s comments will no doubt spark many fans outside of Buffalo to hatch ‘rescue plans’ to get Jack onto a team with a half decent future.
Winnipeg Jets fans should be no different. The Jets have struggled for two seasons now to find an ideal fit for their second center spot and anything that has been planned or suggested have been patch jobs that would maybe work for a season or two.
Could you imagine the next five (or more) seasons with a Mark Scheifele / Jack Eichel 1-2 punch down the middle?
What would it take to get Eichel?
The Jets have a surplus of talented wingers on their club and while it might seem tough to consider Nikolaj Ehlers or Kyle Connor expendable, the truth is if the Jets wanted to acquire a player like Eichel, they’d have to give up some talent of their own and those two would probably be at the top of the list that would need to be sent back to Buffalo.
A single one for one trade though wouldn’t be enough as Winnipeg would likely need to sweeten the deal with first round pick and, throw in a mid-to-high level prospect. In that respect however, there are a couple of interesting options for the Jets as both Logan Stanley and Kristian Vesalainen are both first round picks who still have upside that can be sold to a potential trade partner.
Admittedly, the chances of such a deal happening seem far fetched, especially this year.
Eichel – as far as anyone knows – hasn’t outright demanded a trade. While he’s voiced his frustration, he’s also expressed hope for his team, and by many accounts has embraced his role as Buffalo’s captain. We might yet be a season or two away from proper “save Eichel from the Sabres” talk, but when has that ever stopped hockey fans from speculating and wishing?
I’d be curious to see what other Jets fans think. Should the Jets be asking about Eichel and if the Sabres are willing to listen, what would they feel is a decent offer for him?