NHL Rumor Mill – May 11, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 11, 2021

Jack Eichel’s remarks during his end-of-season conference call sparked speculation over his future with the Buffalo Sabres. Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: John Vogl believes Buffalo Sabres stars Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart are ready to play elsewhere following their remarks during their end-of-season conference calls with the media on Monday.

Jack Eichel’s days with the Buffalo Sabres could be numbered (NHL Images).

Eichel is unhappy over the way the Sabres are handling his treatment for a season-ending herniated disk in his neck. He once again expressed his weariness over the club’s inability to become a playoff contender. “I have a lot of thinking to do in this offseason,” said Eichel. “There’s a lot that I have to consider.”

Reinhart is also tired of six years of constant losing and another last-place finish. “No one wants to go through a rebuild, especially going into next year turning 26 at the start of it,” he said.

Vogl points out Eichel has five seasons left on his contract while the Sabres control Reinhart’s rights for one more season. If they aren’t willing to buy into a rebuild, why would anyone else on the roster?

Eichel could generate a good haul for the Sabres, perhaps a player, draft picks and prospects. Reinhart’s stock is high and he could at least fetch a comparable player with more term on his contract.

TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos believes Eichel’s comments yesterday indicate his relationship with the Sabres front office is broken beyond repair. He also noted the apparent unwillingness of Reinhart and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to face another rebuild at this stage in their respective careers. “I can’t go for another rebuild,” said Ristolainen, adding he’d be fine with general manager Kevyn Adams trading him this summer.

Eichel’s been with the Sabres for six seasons, Reinhart for seven and Ristolainen eight. They’ve yet to skate in a Stanley Cup playoff game.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox also believes Eichel wants out of Buffalo even if the Sabres captain didn’t come right out and say it. As proof, he pointed to the 24-year-old center’s four words (“Wherever that may be”) when talking about where he’ll be playing hockey next season.

Fox speculates the New York Rangers could come calling. They previously explored acquiring Eichel, are rich in prospects and have an owner eager to accelerate his club’s rebuild.

The Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets have glaring holes at center and the cap space to absorb Eichel’s $10 million annual average value. The Los Angeles Kings could attempt to fast-track their rebuild while Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty remain difference-makers.

While other centers, such as Calgary’s Sean Monahan and Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov, could be shopped this summer, none have the talent and potential of Eichel.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks is skeptical the Rangers will pursue Eichel. He doesn’t feel the Sabres captain checks the boxes of veteran leadership, a successful team resume or the ability to play a physical game. If the Rangers re-sign Mika Zibanejad, Brooks believes it could cost them $8 million annually. That would take up significant cap space if they already have a $10 million center in Eichel on the books.

THE ATHLETIC: Lisa Dillman examined the pros and cons of the Kings potentially acquiring Eichel. The pros include his established place among the league’s top centers and the excitement he could generate among Kings’ fans. The cons include concern over his neck injury and the expensive return which would have to include promising Quinton Byfield.

Fluto Shinzawa believes the Boston Bruins could have sufficient salary-cap space to acquire Eichel if they don’t re-sign David Krejci and Tuukka Rask. However, the Sabres asking price could be too expensive, with one league source suggesting a return of at least Charlie McAvoy or David Pastrnak and someone like Trent Frederic in a package deal. McAvoy and Pastrnak are two players the Bruins aren’t giving up.

Shinzawa noted the trade deadline deal that sent Taylor Hall from Buffalo to Boston. However, he feels Sabres GM Adams will draw better offers for Eichel than what he got for Hall. With Eichel lacking no-movement protection until the end of next season, Adams can entertain multiple offers. The Rangers, Minnesota Wild, Vancouver Canucks, Los Angeles and New Jersey Devils could be among the bidders.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch believes there’s no need for the Senators to pursue Eichel. They have the assets and ability to make that trade. However, he feels it doesn’t make sense for them right now because they’ve built their roster from the ground up. Rookie Josh Norris played well as their first-line center while promising Shane Pinto could fit into the second-line role.

The Sabres’ asking price could be a center, a first-round pick in 2021 and at least a couple of prospects. There aren’t many teams that can make that kind of swap. Garrioch included the Rangers, Anaheim Ducks, Bruins and Kings among them.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eichel, Reinhart and Ristolainen could be on their way out this summer. They’ve endured a lot during their time with the Sabres with no sign the club is any closer to becoming a playoff contender. Trading them for pieces to put toward a rebuild is the best option.

Trading Reinhart and Ristolainen, however, could prove easier to do than moving Eichel. They would be much more affordable for other clubs to acquire.

I’m not suggesting Eichel can’t or won’t be traded. However, his $10 million AAV over the next five years plus the Sabres’ asking price will limit the number of serious bidders for his services.

The Sabres won’t “win” an Eichel trade in the short term. They could even lose it long term if the draft picks and prospects they receive fail to pan out as hoped. Nevertheless, they will set a high price aimed at long-term improvement.

Unlike the Hall trade where they had to accept a lesser offer, they aren’t dealing with a struggling veteran using his no-movement clause to determine his trade destinations. Eichel’s in his playing prime whose lack of no-trade protection this summer gives the Sabres a wider number of possible trade partners. That improves their chances of receiving a very good return.

As for where Eichel could go, the Rangers and Kings seem best suited in terms of cap space, draft picks and prospects to make the most competitive bids assuming they’ll pursue a Eichel deal. Whether they want to remains to be seen.

The Red Wings and Senators could get into the bidding but I think those clubs will continue to remain patient with their respective rebuilds. The Blue Jackets have the cap room but they could lack sufficient prospects to outbid other clubs.

The Devils would have to part with Nico Hischier or Jack Hughes to make it work. The Wild could use a proven first-line center but their improvement this season doesn’t put as much pressure on them to make that deal. The Canucks already have two high-quality centers in Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat. They’d also have to offload a lot of salary to free up the necessary cap space for Eichel.