NHL Rumor Mill – June 26, 2021
In today’s NHL Rumor Mill, we examine the latest speculation linking the Wild and Ducks to Jack Eichel and take an early look at the Islanders’ potential offseason plans.
THE LATEST JACK EICHEL SPECULATION
THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo reports the Minnesota Wild had initial trade talks with the Buffalo Sabres regarding superstar center Jack Eichel. Despite this season’s improvement, the Wild’s depth at center drops sharply behind Joel Eriksson Ek.
Nick Bonino and Nick Bjugstad are unrestricted free agents. Victor Rask and Nico Sturm are a year away from UFA eligibility. Marco Rossi, their 2020 first-round pick (ninth overall) was sidelined this season battling COVID-19.
Eichel’s health remains a concern as he could face offseason surgery on a herniated disk in his neck. The Sabres are believed to be seeking futures in return. Russo feels a package from the Wild would have to include Rossi and Matthew Boldy plus other prospects or multiple first-round picks.
He doesn’t see general manager Bill Guerin blowing a hole in his prospect pool. The Sabres would have to take back a salaried player such as Matt Dumba or Kevin Fiala to make the dollars work for the Wild.
Meanwhile, Eric Stephens examined the pros and cons of the Anaheim Ducks potentially acquiring Eichel.
The Ducks could use a first-line, marketable star in his prime like Eichel. The downside, however, is he’s an expensive player with an ongoing injury concern and questions about his leadership ability.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There are several NHL teams where Eichel could be a good fit. The best destinations appear to be teams that are carrying lots of cap space and tradeable assets (draft picks, prospects, young NHL-ready players) in need of a first-line center. However, Eichel’s $10 million annual cap hit for the next five years, the ongoing worries about his neck injury and the Sabres’ expensive asking price is narrowing that field.
I felt the Blue Jackets would be a prime candidate but a recent report by The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline suggests otherwise. The Wild are coming off a promising season based largely on their young talent. They’ll want to keep that prospect pipeline flowing for a few more years. If they go shopping for a center, perhaps Eichel’s teammate Sam Reinhart would be a more affordable option.
The Ducks could have a potential star in Trevor Zegras. They could end up with another as they carry the third-overall pick in this year’s draft.
Pursuing Eichel would be worthwhile if the Ducks were on the cusp of playoff contention but that’s not where they are right now. Their best course in this rebuild is avoiding unnecessary shortcuts.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE ISLANDERS?
ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan examined possible moves by the New York Islanders as they enter the offseason.
Defenseman Nick Leddy, gritty winger Matt Martin and 2016 first-round pick Kieffer Bellows could be exposed in next month’s expansion draft. Kaplan speculates Isles general manager Lou Lamoriello could try to entice the Seattle Kraken to take Andrew Ladd off their hands with a side deal.
Limited salary-cap space could make it difficult to retain unrestricted free agent forwards Kyle Palmieri and Casey Cizikas. They also have to re-sign restricted free agents Anthony Beauvillier, Adam Pelech and Ilya Sorokin.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Islanders are likely to tweak their roster this summer rather than make a big trade or UFA signing. Getting the Kraken to take Ladd and the remaining two years ($5.5 million annually) of his contract could require a substantial sweetener.
The Isles will also get some cap relief by placing permanently sidelined defenseman Johnny Boychuk ($6.5 million) on long-term injury reserve. However, the new contracts for Beauvillier, Pelech and Sorokin could also force Lamoriello to make a cost-cutting deal.