The sharks are circling around Jack Eichel.
Now, that’s not literally the San Jose Sharks who are in the midst of a retooling of their team, but dozens of general managers following the Buffalo Sabres star’s explosive season-ending media availability this week.
Eichel himself described his frustration and disconnect with the basement-dwelling Sabres, going on to hint at tensions surrounding his neck injury and his want to have surgery.
Jack Eichel essentially says the Sabres wouldn't let him have surgery on his herniated disk in his neck.
His body, his choice?
"It doesn't work like that. I wish. … I'm under contract with this team and they definitely hold a lot of cards on what I can and can't do."
— John Vogl (@BuffaloVogl) May 10, 2021
Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams told reporters on Wednesday that Eichel’s camp is looking to have a surgery never before done on an NHL player and the team has elected to take a more conservative approach with their star’s ailments.
Safe to say, things aren’t looking at all rosy when it comes to the 2015 second overall draft pick’s future in Buffalo.
That has sent rumours flying across the league on where Eichel could end up six seasons into his National Hockey League career.
A player of Eichel’s calibre rarely appears on the trade block and while he publicly hasn’t requested a trade from the Sabres organization, the writing appears to be on the wall.
Buffalo is on the clock to get a deal done as well, as Eichel’s no-move clause kicks in following the 2021-22 season.
There will be no shortage of teams who will inquire about the 24-year-old, including the Calgary Flames who are themselves likely headed for a roster shakeup of their own after a disappointing 2020-21 campaign.
The bottom line will be for Flames management is even with his injury history, Eichel won’t come cheap.
Eichel’s body of work hasn’t yet equalled the generational talent selected one pick ahead of him, as Connor McDavid completes one of the greatest single-season performances in recent memory.
However, Eichel’s 139 goals and 355 points in 375 career games should be held in high regard considering none of the teams he’s played on have even come close to the playoffs.
Over that span, the Sabres have recorded a pitiful 171-221-60 record and have finished no higher than sixth in their division.
Injuries continue to be an issue for Eichel as he’s played at least 70 games in a season just twice in his career so far, but his talent is immense.
That’s a big reason why the Sabres committed to a long-term deal with their captain, inking him to an eight-year, $80 million contract.
For whatever team is able to land an Eichel approaching his prime, they will have to deal with his neck injury and the possibility of a lengthy absence if surgery is needed.
But, they’ll also be adding a bonafide first-line centreman that can flirt with 80 points or more.
Most signs point to the New York Rangers as the front-runners for landing Eichel, however the Flames possess the roster players, cap space, and draft picks to make a deal work.
I'm of the mind the Flames should still trade for Jack Eichel.
Gaudreau Eichel Tkachuk
Mangiapane Backlund Lindholm…
… Can fix some problems. Not all. But some.
— Byron Bader (@ByronMBader) May 10, 2021
There’s a good chance Calgary’s core will see some changes this off-season, with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan’s futures in doubt.
Both would be appetizing trade chips for Calgary in a deal with the Sabres, as both could provide some immediate offence for Buffalo with the loss of Eichel.
Matthew Tkachuk is another interesting name as he would likely be the first piece Adams would ask for and would help bring down the value of the rest of the pieces Calgary would have to give up.
That could end up being a deal-breaker for the Flames in the end however, as it appears more and more likely that Tkachuk will be the player representing the new core of the team.
Top prospects would need to be included in a trade, with one or both of Jakob Pelletier and Connor Zary likely changing in the flaming ‘C’ for crossed swords.
The pair were both strong contributors on Canada’s silver medal winning team at the 2021 World Juniors and bring first round pick acumen to the table.
To make the money work, the Flames might have to give up a secondary roster player as well with Mikael Backlund or Andrew Mangiapane serving as additional throw-ins.
From the Sabres point of view, they would likely be looking for a package including Tkachuk, one of Pelletier or Zary, along with a first-round pick in exchange for Eichel.
Tkachuk would be able to immediately jump onto Buffalo’s top line and could form some chemistry with young gun Dylan Cozens who equally has that blend of skill and ruggedness.
As mentioned before, the Flames will likely do everything in their power to avoid parting with Tkachuk and would probably be more likely to part with either Gaudreau or Monahan.
While Gaudreau has proven to be a greater offensive producer than Monahan, especially this season, he only has one year left at $6.75 million following this season.
The Sabres likely won’t want to trade a franchise player for a winger who could bolt for free agency after one season, so that makes Monahan a more likely target.
Monahan has proven to be a consistent 25- to 30-goal scorer over his career, with hopes that upcoming surgery on his hip will get him back to that level.
Calgary would have to pony up more with Tkachuk off the table, meaning an offer of Monahan, either Pelletier or Zary, plus first and second round picks would need to be made.
Treliving has made no issues of dealing multiple picks in blockbuster trades in the past (as he did for Dougie Hamilton and Travis Hamonic) and would probably have to do so again to acquire Eichel.