NHL Rumor Mill – August 6, 2021

by | May 2, 2021 | Rumors

What’s the latest on the Jack Eichel trade market? Could the Lightning attempt to trade Steven Stamkos in a cost-cutting move? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski explored the trade market for Jack Eichel amid his impasse with the Buffalo Sabres over treatment for his neck injury as well as the difficulty of moving the 24-year-old center’s hefty contract.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

Wyshynski observed more teams seeming to be out of the Eichel Derby than in at the moment. The Los Angeles Kings have moved on, as have the Minnesota Wild because of the Sabres’ high asking price.

The New York Rangers remain interested. However, Wyshynski doubts the Sabres will pick up half of Eichel’s $10 million cap hit to facilitate a trade as suggested by some in the New York media.

It’s believed the Vegas Golden Knights are still on the trail. Wyshynski suggested they could free up the necessary cap space by trading Reilly Smith ($5 million) and the sidelined Alex Tuch ($4.75 million). He also believes the Anaheim Ducks are still there but they won’t part with promising prospects like Trevor Zegras or Jamie Drysdale.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are reportedly in the mix. Wyshynski wondered if the Seattle Kraken would get involved given their cap space, though they lack sufficient prospect depth.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kings kicked tires on Eichel around the April trade deadline but it doesn’t seem like they were seriously entertaining the idea. Their recent acquisitions of Phillip Danault and Viktor Arvidsson indicate they’re no longer in the bidding.

Wild GM Bill Guerin has sought a first-line center since taking over the job a couple of years ago. His interest in Eichel appeared genuine but he’s reluctant to deplete his prospect pipeline. As Wyshynski also pointed out, the recent buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter would make it difficult to absorb Eichel’s cap hit from 2022-23 to 2024-25.

A recent report claimed Sabres owner Terry Pegula doesn’t want Eichel traded to an Eastern Conference club. That takes the Rangers out of the equation. Even if Pegula changes his mind, I doubt we’ll see him agreeing to Eichel getting traded to a team in the same state. Given Eichel’s cap hit, they’re probably not keen to have any amount of his annual cap hit on their books as dead cap space over the next five years.

Like the Wild, the Golden Knights lack a true No. 1 center. Unlike the Wild, however, I think they’re open to finding a way to acquire Eichel. The sticking point here is cap space but they also have an owner who’s hungry to win the Stanley Cup. If the Golden Knights can figure out a way to do it they’ll take the gamble.

The Ducks make the most sense in terms of location, cap space and depth in young assets to tempt the Sabres. The question remains whether GM Bob Murray sees Eichel as the foundation of his roster rebuild.

In late June The Athletic’s Aaron Portrzline reported the Jacket didn’t appear in hot pursuit of Eichel because of his injured neck. It would be quite the swerve if the Kraken got into the Eichel sweepstakes. GM Ron Francis surprised folks by inking Philipp Grubauer and Jaden Schwartz during the opening day of free agency but he doesn’t seem interested in swinging a blockbuster trade.

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Joe Smith was asked if Brayden Point’s recent contract extension increased the likelihood of the Tampa Bay Lightning trading Steven Stamkos at some point.

Smith pointed out Stamkos still has a full no-movement clause and refused to waive it when approached about it by management last fall. If he wants to finish his playing career in Tampa Bay then that’s how it’ll play out.

He doubted any club would be willing to take on the remainder of Stamkos’s contract. The 31-year-old Lightning captain carries an $8.25 million annual cap hit through 2023-24. He also doesn’t see Stamkos retiring before his contract expires.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lots of things can happen over the remainder of Stamkos’ contract that could determine whether he finishes his career with the Lightning. His nagging core injuries could prematurely end his career, allowing the Bolts to place him on permanent long-term injured reserve. Maybe his role becomes reduced and he decides to move on to a club where he’ll get more playing time.

It’s also possible none of those things happen and Stamkos plays out the remainder of his contract with the Lightning. In that case, they’ll have to find other way to free up cap space.