NHL Rumor Mill – May 12, 2021
More Jack Eichel trade speculation plus the latest on the Coyotes in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports multiple sources said Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel had a contentious exit interview with the organization. It’s believed he’s exploring an artificial disk replacement in his neck on the advice of his medical team. The Sabres, however, aren’t thrilled with that option because of the lack of evidence of its effectiveness on elite-level athletes.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That resulted in Eichel’s surprising comments about his future during his season-ending media conference call on Monday.
Eichel may have played his final game for the Sabres. He will attract plenty of interest in the trade market despite his medical treatment.
The Rangers are the obvious suitor given their interest in Eichel last year. They weren’t willing to part with their 2020 first-round pick because it was first overall but that could be an option this time around unless they win the draft lottery again. Friedman wonders if the Sabres would ship Eichel to New York but also mused over whether they would say no if the Rangers made the best offer.
Boston Bruins and Columbus Blue Jackets could try but Friedman wonders if they have the pieces. He thinks the Philadelphia Flyers, Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings could do it. The Ottawa Senators could too but it doesn’t make sense for them. So could the Montreal Canadiens.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun also believes the Rangers could be a suitor for Eichel, as well as the Minnesota Wild. The latter have to re-sign Kirill Kaprizov and Joel Eriksson Ek so they have to make the money work.
Frank Seravalli doubts the Sabres would want to trade Eichel to a division rival and risk facing him six to eight times a season. He thinks California teams like Anaheim and Los Angeles would be better destinations. Ducks general manager Bob Murray wants to make a splash while the Kings reportedly had a cursory conversation with the Sabres about Eichel before last month’s trade deadline.
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun asked several NHL team executives about a potential Eichel trade sweepstakes and received a wide range of views. Despite some concerns about Eichel’s injury history and character, LeBrun has no doubt that the center will be too tempting for teams to pass up.
Michael Russo believes the Minnesota Wild would have to shed salary to fit Eichel’s $10 million annual average value within their salary cap. He wondered if the Sabres would be interested in an offer of Kevin Fiala and Matt Dumba. However, they could prefer a first-line center or blue-chip center prospect as part of any return for Eichel.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I still believe the Rangers and Kings would be the front-runners in the Eichel sweepstakes if they choose to pursue a trade. They have the depth in assets to make a strong pitch.
Ducks GM Bob Murray did attempt to acquire Pierre-Luc Dubois in January before he was traded to Winnipeg. However, the Sabres will ask for promising Trevor Zegras and perhaps defenseman Jamie Drysdale as well. Murray didn’t want to part with either guy for Dubois and could be reluctant to do so for Eichel.
The Blue Jackets have the cap room but I don’t see them outbidding the Rangers or Kings. Cap Friendly shows the Flyers with over $69 million invested in 17 players for next season. They must shed cap space to make room for Eichel’s $10 million cap hit and I doubt they can tempt the Sabres into helping them.
The Senators have the depth in promising assets and plenty of cap space. However, they seem happy with how their current roster is developing and could be reluctant to mess that up with a big splash in the trade pool. The Canadiens have the assets but, like the Flyers, lack the cap space to pull it off.
Wild GM Bill Guerin could kick tires on Eichel. While Joel Eriksson Ek has blossomed into a solid two-way center but they still lack a genuine first-liner. However, I think Guerin will consider more affordable options to address that need.
Treliving of the Flames could also inquire but I don’t believe he can meet the Sabres asking price or outbid other clubs He could, however, look at Eichel’s teammate Sam Reinhart. Friedman suggested Reinhart, a West Vancouver native, could attract interest from the Western Canadian NHL teams.
AZ COYOTES INSIDER: Craig Morgan believes the Arizona Coyotes’ biggest need is a No. 1 center but believes they’ll have to draft and develop one as rival clubs are reluctant to trade such commodities. If GM Bill Armstrong pursues a center it’ll likely be a middle-six option.
Morgan also believes the Coyotes need a physical top-four defenseman with a right-hand shot. Addressing that need is a priority for Armstrong.
Of the Coyotes’ pending unrestricted free agents, Morgan believes Alex Goligoski is the only one who might be brought back. He feels Goligoski would get a one- or two-year deal.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman speculates the Coyotes could trade winger Phil Kessel for draft picks and prospects. He was among the top-30 in goals this season and is due for a $5 million bonus for next season followed by $1 million in base salary. Friedman also shot down a rumor suggesting the Coyotes would buy out Nick Schmaltz.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eichel would certainly fill that first-line center need for the Coyotes. They have the cap space but I don’t see them getting into the bidding given the reports earlier this season of ownership’s financial woes.
Kessel still has his 8-team no-trade list but that still gives the Coyotes a decent number of possible destinations if they wish to move him. Any interested parties, however, will wait until he’s received that bonus payment.