It was a saga that dragged on and on (and on) for months but on Thursday, Jack Eichel’s tenure in Buffalo officially came to an end as he was traded with a 2023 third-round pick to Vegas in exchange for winger Alex Tuch, center Peyton Krebs, a 2022 first-round pick, and a 2023 second-round pick.
The Golden Knights had long been speculated as a landing spot for Eichel. Their desire to add a number one center had been well-known and they’ve had a tendency to find ways to land impact players in the early years of the franchise including the acquisitions of wingers Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty plus the signing of Alex Pietrangelo in free agency. Now, they have a legitimate top middleman, or at least that’s the hope assuming all goes well with his upcoming surgery.
The fact that Vegas was able to land Eichel without giving up a player from their current roster is impressive but it also is going to create some other challenges down the road from a salary cap perspective. Eichel joins Pacioretty and Stone on LTIR which keeps them cap-compliant for the next few months at least. But when they’re all ready to return, they will be well over the Upper Limit and some other moves will need to be made. Even if one of them stays on LTIR for the rest of the regular season, there’s still 2022-23 and beyond to think about. They have $78.735MM committed to 11 players for 2022-23, per CapFriendly, with an expected Upper Limit of $82.5MM. It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that more subtraction needs to come.
Whatever those moves ultimately wind up being will ultimately have to be factored into the cost of this deal for Vegas. They’ve given up Krebs, Tuch, and the two picks so far but what will the other ramifications be?
Meanwhile, Buffalo’s cap situation was at the exact opposite end to the point where they had to take on Johnny Boychuk’s injured contract from the Islanders merely to get back to the salary floor. But they were able to move Eichel without taking significant salary commitments back which appeared to be a goal when they started down this path last season.
In Krebs, they hope to have another center to build around alongside Dylan Cozens; the two were both first-rounders back in 2019 (seventh overall for Cozens while Krebs went ten spots later). The center spot has been the weakness of their quickly-expanding prospect pool and this certainly helps on that front although as is the case with all prospects, things may not go as planned.
As for Tuch, the Sabres add a power forward that has long been perceived as someone that could have another level in him if he had the chance to play a bigger role. He’ll get that chance with Buffalo and with five years of team control at a reasonable $4.75MM AAV, Tuch will be another long-term building block.
To get two potential top-six pieces plus a pair of draft picks (one being a first-rounder) is by no means a bad return but when you look at Eichel’s track record and how he was supposed to be the focal point of Buffalo’s rebuild, it’s understandable if it feels a little underwhelming as well. The Sabres are certainly a victim of circumstances here with his neck injury but it’s at least in part by their own design with their unwillingness to allow Eichel’s desired surgery, thereby delaying his return. Accordingly, there will be a ‘What If?’ element to this trade that will go on for years to come.
It only seems fitting that following all of the uncertainty for months leading up to the eventual trade, there’s still an awful lot of uncertainty even after it was made. Who else will need to leave Vegas to make the money work and what could have been the return had Sabres GM Kevyn Adams perhaps done things differently?
Of course, we can’t evaluate those scenarios but we can evaluate the trade itself. How do you feel both teams made out in this swap? Vote in the polls below to award your grades.