The Buffalo Sabres have traded Jack Eichel and a draft pick to the Vegas Golden Knights for Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs, and two draft picks.
The Golden Knights Get: C Jack Eichel and a 2023 third-round pick
Eichel, 25, is a 6-foot-2, 213-pound centre. He has put up 242 points (91 G, 151 A) in 233 games in the past four seasons. His 1.04 points per game in that time ranks 18th in the league.
The second overall pick in the 2015 Draft, Eichel had 18 points (2 G, 16 A) in 21 games last season before getting shut down due to a neck injury. It has been well-documented that Eichel and his representatives have preferred a disk replacement surgery to address his neck issue. The Sabres were steadfastly maintaining that a fusion surgery was their preferred approach. That led to the impasse between the two sides and, ultimately, to Eichel’s departure.
Vegas Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon estimated that it might take 4-5 months for Eichel to recover from the surgery. He also acknowledged that it is just a guess because the surgery has never been performed on an NHL player.
The Golden Knights are obviously making this move with long-term consequences in mind. There may be some struggles during this season The team is already missing key pieces like Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, and William Karlsson. The hope would be that by season’s end, Eichel might be able to return to a healthier Vegas lineup potentially raising the bar on what they could accomplish.
A healthy Eichel would give the Golden Knights a legitimate franchise centre and if he is on the top line between Pacioretty and Stone that could be one of the very best lines in the game.
There will be some roster shuffling necessary at some point, for the Golden Knights, in order to accommodate Eichel’s $10 million hit against the salary cap. That is the kind of sacrifice that gets made to bring in a player of this stature. Wingers Evgenii Dadonov and Reilly Smith both count for $5 million against the salary cap. If there is a savings needed, they might be likely starting points. This will all depend on when Eichel would even be ready to return to the lineup. It’s conceivable he could go on the Nikita Kucherov plan and be ready for the playoffs, assuming the Golden Knights get there.
However this season plays out for Eichel with the Golden Knights, this is about a bigger picture move. It would be great for Eichel to play down the stretch and in a long playoff run for the Golden Knights but his health will dictate that. Eichel is signed for four more seasons after this one, with a cap hit of $10 million per season. He is going to be a focal point for the team for years to come.
The Sabres Get: C Peyton Krebs, RW Alex Tuch, a 2022 first-round pick and a 2023 second-round pick
Krebs was apparently the one that would make or break this deal. The 20-year-old centre was the 17th pick in the 2020 Draft but that does not quite do justice to expectations. His draft slot likely would have been higher but he suffered a torn Achilles prior to the draft. The uncertainty resulted in Krebs getting drafted lower than he most likely would have without the injury.
Having recovered from the injury last season, Krebs produced eight points (3 G, 5 A) in seven games for Team Canada at the World Juniors. He added 43 points (13 G, 30 A) in 24 games for Winnipeg in the Western Hockey League. Then five points (1 G, 4 A) in five games for Henderson of the American Hockey League. Finally, Krebs had one assist in four games for the Vegas Golden Knights.
Krebs has not produced any points in limited action during nine games with Vegas this season. He did record five assists in two AHL games. He has the pedigree to expect that he will be a point producing forward in the National Hockey League. Not on the level of Eichel, but a player who can fit in the top six. In Buffalo, he will have the opportunity to grow with young forwards Casey Mittelstadt and Dylan Cozens as a new forward core for the Sabres.
Tuch is a 25-year-old winger who is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. He had the surgery in late July and the timeline for recovery was expected to be six months, which would put a Tuch return to action sometime around late January.
A 6-foot-4 winger with soft hands who can skate, Tuch has spent much of his time in Vegas on the third line, a spot for which he was probably over-qualified. When healthy, he could very easily be a first line winger for the Sabres.
He is from Syracuse, New York and grew up a Sabres fan so Tuch is reportedly excited about the move.
In four seasons with Vegas, Tuch produced 139 points (61 G, 78 A) in 249 games playing nearly 16 minutes per game.
The first-round pick is Top-10 protected, which does offer some safety for the Golden Knights. A pick outside the Top 10 is not likely to yield a star. Pick 11 through about pick 26 is likely to yield an NHL player. The odds of getting a top-six forward or top-four defenceman ranges between one-in-three and one-in-four for most of those picks.
A second-round pick typically has about a one-in-three chance of becoming an NHL player (ie. plays in 100 or more NHL games). The third-round pick going to Vegas might have a one-in-four chance of becoming an NHL player. That pick upgrade is a slight sweetener on top of Tuch, Krebs and the Top-10 protected first-round pick.
The Golden Knights are not shy to take big swings. They have been wheeling and dealing to bring stars into their organization. Vegas traded for Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and Robin Lehner. They signed Alex Pietrangelo as a free agent. Jack Eichel is a legitimate star so it is no surprise that the Golden Knights were interested. Assuming that he comes out of the surgery healthy, Vegas will not have regrets from this deal. The Sabres probably have regrets about how this played out because that did not put them in the best position. If Krebs, Tuch and the first-round pick all have a long-term future in Buffalo, then that is a reasonable outcome from a bad situation.
The risk that hangs over this deal is that it is possible Jack Eichel will not get fully healthy again. It is expected that he will. Professional athletes have the best medical care but there is an assumption that Eichel will be in good health eventually.
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