The day Jack Eichel has been waiting over a year for has finally arrived. Yesterday, around 9:45 a.m., the Buffalo Sabres traded Eichel and a 2023 third-round pick to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs, a 2022 first-round pick and a 2023 second-round pick.
The Eichel saga began prior to the 2020 season when rumbling out of Buffalo reported that the 24-year-old forward was unhappy. This was due to multiple factors that include ownership, management and an overall lack of success from the franchise. Eichel’s 2020 campaign started slow as he only tallied two goals (he did have 16 assists) in 21 games.
In Buffalo’s 22nd game, Eichel was hit by the Islander’s Casey Cizikas which would end his season. The diagnosis was a herniated disk in his neck. Eichel’s camp wanted the forward to undergo Artificial Disk Replacement Surgery, a procedure never done before on an active NHL player. The Sabres told Eichel that the organization did not feel comfortable with him going through with the surgery and he should explore other options including a possible disk fusion. Eichel and his agent did not like this response.
The final nail in the coffin for the relationship between Eichel and Buffalo was a failed physical before training camp this season. This resulted in Eichel being stripped of the captaincy. It became abundantly clear that the former second-overall pick would never play a game in a Sabre uniform ever again.
Trade talks began heating up again between Buffalo and numerous other clubs in mid-October. The Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers and Calgary Flames were all rumored to be making pitches to Buffalo general manager Kevyn Adams. Rumors stated that the Flames even went as far as offering franchise cornerstone piece Matthew Tkachuk, but those rumors were eventually proven false. A few days ago, it was reported that Vegas had approached Buffalo and were nearing a trade that would eventually be completed.
Eichel responded to the news by tweeting out a picture of himself photoshopped into a Golden Knights’ jersey with the caption “VEGAS BABY, VEGAS.” Soon after the trade went through, Vegas announced it would allow Eichel to undergo Artificial Disk Replacement Surgery and expect him to be ready to play around early March.
In a press conference this afternoon, Adams said that Krebs was the centerpiece of the return for Buffalo and he will be assigned to the AHL affiliate in Rochester as the organization does not want to rush his development. Tuch, a Syracuse native, has “always dreamed of playing for the Sabres” and is expected to make his Buffalo debut within the coming days.
The Sabres were not done with just the Eichel trade, though. In a much more minor move, the Sabres acquired Johnny Boychuk from the Islanders for future considerations. This allowed Buffalo to hit the salary cap floor, a threshold all clubs must meet to avoid penalty.
So, what does this mean for the league and fans of hockey? Fortunately, one of the game’s best players will finally be back on the ice towards the end of the season. This also means fans get to watch Eichel face off against another marquee player in Connor McDavid at least six times every year with the possibility of the two meeting in a playoff series. This trade also is a start in possibly trying to balance the two conferences as the East is currently much stronger and deeper than the West.
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