NHL Rumor Mill – October 27, 2021
Should the struggling Maple Leafs fire their coach or trade a big-name player? Are the Golden Knights pursuing a trade for Sabres center Jack Eichel? Should the Avalanche also try to acquire him? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli appeared on Sportnet 590’s FAN Morning Show to discuss the Toronto Maple Leafs’ options as they endure a slow start to this season. He believes they face three options. They could replace head coach Sheldon Keefe, trade a big-name player like Mitch Marner or “triple down” and stick with the roster they’ve built.
Seravalli doesn’t see them firing Keefe as he just got a contract extension. Marner could have value in the trade market despite his offensive struggles stretching back to the 2021 playoffs. However, Seravalli doesn’t believe they’re at that point. He sees them sticking with their roster and waiting for them to overcome their slow start.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Keefe hasn’t been helped by the steady depletion of roster depth over the last two offseasons. The loss of gritty heart-and-soul forward Zach Hyman to free agency this summer was a significant blow. They remain top-heavy at forward, lacking skilled depth throughout their checking lines and defense corps.
Marner’s hefty contract ensures he’s not going anywhere during this season, especially with only a handful of teams carrying $10 million or more in cap space. His $10.9 million deal is difficult for another club to absorb during the season. The earliest Marner could hit the trade block is in the offseason, assuming the Leafs face-plant in the first round again or fail to reach the postseason. That’s usually when stars with big contracts get dealt.
For now, of course, it’s still too early to talk about a big roster shakeup by the Leafs. As Seravalli indicated, they’ll stick with their current roster in anticipation of them turning things around soon.
DAILY FACEOFF: Seravalli also reports there’s been “increased chatter” between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Buffalo Sabres about Jack Eichel in recent days. Eichel and the Sabres remain at a standoff over which medical procedure he’ll receive for a herniated disc in his neck. There’s speculation he could file a grievance through the NHLPA if there’s no resolution to the impasse soon.
The Golden Knights’ interest could depend on the status of winger Mark Stone. He carries a $9.5 million salary cap hit but is currently sidelined with what Servalli called a back injury. It’s uncertain how long he’ll be out but the Golden Knights could be holding their cards close to the vest in hope of making an Eichel deal work. He also mentioned the possibility of a third-party broker getting involved to make this work from a financial standpoint.
THE DENVER POST: Mark Kiszla believes the struggling Colorado Avalanche should beat the Golden Knights to the punch and acquire Eichel. He acknowledged the difficulty from a salary-cap viewpoint as well as the risk posed by the uncertainty over Eichel’s medical condition. Nevertheless, he felt that might be better than Eichel scoring a clutch goal for the Golden Knights against the Avalanche in the playoffs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights have long been linked to Eichel and he would address their glaring need for an elite first-line center. They’re sitting over the $81.5 million salary cap but are getting nearly $12 million in cap relief with Max Pacioretty (lower-body fracture) and Alex Tuch (shoulder surgery) on long-term injury reserve. They could get $9.5 million more if Stone ends up there too.
Acquiring Eichel now and letting him undergo disc replacement surgery could mean waiting weeks or months before he’s ready to play again. Pacioretty and Tuch, meanwhile, will return to the lineup later this season, meaning the Golden Knights must be cap complaint when Eichel makes his return.
The Golden Knights would also have to give up three roster players as part of the deal. Reilly Smith, Peyton Krebs and Nicolas Hague were part of the Sabres’ reported asking price back in July. If the Sabres won’t lower that price it would further deplete their roster, knocking them out of playoff contention by the time Eichel is ready to play.
A third-party broker might mean the Golden Knights won’t have to give up as much to get Eichel, but that third team would still want a significant return to absorb a healthy chunk of the center’s $10 million annual cap hit. It would still leave Vegas’ lineup depleted and struggling.
The same goes for the Avalanche. They were rumored to have looked into the cost of acquiring Eichel but they don’t seem to be seriously pursuing it.