NHL Rumor Mill – November 3, 2021
ESPN: Emily Kaplan reports sources claim the Calgary Flames and Vegas Golden Knights are the sole finalists in the bidding for Jack Eichel. Both clubs are okay with the 25-year-old Buffalo Sabres center undergoing disc replacement surgery to repair the herniated disc in his neck.
Kaplan said she was told a trade could be close (“on the one-yard line”) but details are still being worked out. Sabres general manager Kevin Adams has been working hard to get this done but he’s standing firm on his asking price. The Flames and Golden Knights have yet to meet his full demands.
The timetable for Eichel’s return would see him return to the ice within six weeks of surgery but it could be up to three months before he’s ready for game play. That would take him out of joining Team USA for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Still, the recovery period is two months shorter than it would be if he underwent neck fusion.
CALGARY HOCKEY NOW: Steve Macfarland noted the Sabres asking price was set months ago consisting of at least four assets not including those that would have to go the other way for salary-cap purposes. He believes the Flames would have to part with a first-round pick, a top prospect and two young roster players, preferably a forward and defenseman under 25.
Macfarland doesn’t see the Sabres being interested in Juuso Valimaki given his struggles this season. The Flames are short on wingers so they’re unlikely to part with Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, Blake Coleman or Andrew Mangiapane.
Center Sean Monahan and his $6.375 million annual cap hit would have to go the other way to help offset the addition of Eichel’s $10 million cap hit. McFarland doubts the Flames will acquire Eichel unless general manager Brad Treliving feels he won’t be able to re-sign Gaudreau or if Tkachuk is biding his time as a restricted free agent.
CALGARY SUN: Kristen Anderson also weighed in on the cost for the Flames to acquire Eichel. She pointed out the Flames have just over $1 million in cap space, meaning they must shed salary in addition to perhaps parting with younger players like Valimaki, speedy winger Dillon Dube and promising prospect Jakob Pelletier as part of the deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I noted yesterday, the salary cap is an issue for the cap-strapped Flames and Golden Knights. The Sabres have made it clear they’re not retaining any portion of Eichel’s cap hit.
Vegas has Max Pacioretty and Alex Tuch on long-term injury reserve and can use that flexibility in the short term to add Eichel. However, they must shed salary later in the season when those players return to the lineup.
The Flames, meanwhile, would have to ship out salary immediately to make the dollars fit. That will involve either a direct deal with the Sabres, a separate cost-cutting trade with another club, or a trade involving a third team acting as a third-party broker.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy reports the Boston Bruins likely won’t be involved in any Eichel trade. He cites a well-placed source saying the Bruins are trying to improve their roster but haven’t been involved in the Eichel trade sweepstakes for a while.
Murphy believes the Bruins lack depth in tradeable assets to tempt the Sabres. His source said Bruins general manager Don Sweeney has been looking for a defenseman, specifically a top-four rearguard who can produce offense from the blueline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise the Bruins are out of the bidding for Eichel given the Sabres’ expensive asking price. Most observers have said for months the Bruins lack the assets to make a competitive pitch for Eichel.