The NHL trade deadline has come and gone with the most notable move being a deal between the Philadelphia Flyers and San Jose Sharks. The big question now is how did they grade?
The “nhl trade grades 2021” is a list of the NHL’s best and worst trades during the 2020-2021 season. The article will also include the top players for each team, as well as what each team needs to do in order to improve their chances for next season.
After months of speculation regarding a Jack Eichel trade, the Vegas Golden Knights officially acquired the 25-year-old center from the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday.
Veteran forward Alex Tuch and prospect Peyton Krebs will be heading to Buffalo, as well as a selection swap:
If Vegas’ first-round selection in 2022 is not a top-10 pick, the team will move its own first-round pick in 2022 and second-round pick in 2023 to Buffalo, while Buffalo will transfer its own third-round pick in 2023 to Vegas.
If Vegas’ first-round draft selection in 2022 is a top-10 pick, the team will give Buffalo its own first-round pick in 2023 and second-round pick in 2024; in this case, Buffalo will give Vegas its own third-round pick in 2024.
How did both GMs do now that the transaction has been completed? Here are our rankings for Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams and Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon:
The tale of the Jack Eichel deal finished with the most expected outcome: Golden Knights owner Bill Foley continues to acquire top players at various positions, much like a kid rearranging Pokemon cards.
The Knights constructed their squad around Marc-Andre Fleury, then recruited Robin Lehner as a backup goalkeeper. They made a significant move by purchasing Ottawa winger Mark Stone, then handing him the richest contract in the team’s brief existence and the first with complete trade protection. After the goaltenders and the winger failed to provide Foley his Stanley Cup, they turned to the top defender, free-agent prize Alex Pietrangelo, whom they acquired from the St. Louis Blues in 2020. Even still, Vegas came up short.
So, obviously, the No. 1 center post would be the last to be filled, and the hockey world promptly formed the marriage with Buffalo, which was completed on Thursday.
On the ice, the Golden Knights gained a superstar without having to give up anything close to similar value in exchange.
When the Golden Knights are healthy, and Eichel is presumably healthy, he fills a significant hole and makes them a much stronger club. Having William Karlsson and Chandler Stephenson slide down the lineup behind Eichel provides Vegas incredible depth at center, assuming none of the dominoes have yet to fall to enable Eichel’s contract to be added to the roster — more on that in a bit.
The Knights will also be able to provide Eichel with explosive wingers to play with. Unless the latter is sacrificed to the salary-cap gods, I don’t envision a situation in which Eichel doesn’t start with Stone and/or Max Pacioretty on his wings. In the 2019-20 season, when he spent the most of his time alongside Sam Reinhart and Victor Olofsson, Eichel had 21.5 goals over average and four victories for the Sabres. Give him some skill and see how far he can go.
If there’s one thing we don’t know about Eichel on the ice, it’s that we don’t know what he can do to help Foley’s team win the Stanley Cup because… we’ve never seen him in the playoffs, owing to Buffalo’s ineptness. There have also been issues raised regarding his attitude behind the scenes in Buffalo, which seems to be a natural outcome of the franchise’s repeated failure and directional shifts.
It’s worth noting that Tuch may be missed the most in the playoffs for Vegas. In the playoffs, he was a valuable member of the supporting cast, scoring 19 goals in 66 games.
The Knights’ pattern of trading first-round selections to obtain experienced players continues with the trade of Krebs. Nick Suzuki took on the persona of Pacioretty. Stone was acquired in exchange for Erik Brannstrom. Cody Glass changed his name to Nolan Patrick. They even handed a first-round pick to Detroit in exchange for Tomas Tatar, who would later become Joe Veleno for the Wings. Perhaps Vegas will win the Stanley Cup as a consequence of this. Or maybe Suzuki isn’t the only one who got away.
The Golden Knights were allowed to sign Eichel off the ice because they would enable him to undergo artificial disk replacement surgery instead of fusion surgery. Some medical professionals agree this is acceptable. Some people believe it has a lower success rate than standard fusion surgery. Let’s hope Eichel and his crew were correct on this one for the Knights’ sake.
When Eichel returns in a few months, Vegas will have to address some salary-cap issues. He has a $10 million average annual value contract that runs through the 2025-26 season. Buffalo didn’t keep any money from the exchange.
The Knights will be close to $10 million above the salary cap with Stone, Pacioretty, and Eichel all healthy. There have been some creative accounting plans to make it work in the lead-up to Eichel’s debut later in the season, but more sacrifices will be required to squeeze him in. Trading Alec Martinez ($5.25 million AAV) and upcoming free agency forward Reilly Smith ($5 million AAV) gets you there, but those are two major parts of the jigsaw that are being sent away.
So, let’s be creative: The Knights keep the band intact while placing “Kucherov” Jack Eichel on long-term injured reserve until he magically recovers in time for Game 1 of the playoffs. It’s far from perfect. It’s possible that it won’t pass the NHL smell test. However, it is preferable to purge the roster now rather than later in the summer.
But the elephant in the room is that the Golden Knights aren’t playing very well right now: 4-5-0 and looking like a shell of their former selves without those superstars. Keep in mind that Eichel’s contract runs from 2025 through 2026. Only eight of the 17 players under contract for next season in Vegas have any form of trade protection. Just wait it out if this club fails to turn things around and reach the playoffs.
There’s a reason the first-rounder was lottery-protected in the first place.
The other day, I was talking with an NHL general manager about the Jack Eichel Derby. Despite his misgivings about the cap impact and the expense, he informed me he wanted in. But it didn’t matter to him what he wanted: The team’s medical staff had made it obvious that Eichel would not be able to undergo the disk replacement surgery he sought; his medical staff, like the Sabres’, believed that disk fusion surgery was the best alternative.
The executive bemoaned, “Even if I wanted him, I couldn’t have him.”
The reward on a deal for a general manager is only as good as the market for that player. It’s not about being a salesperson with a silver tongue. It all comes down to leverage. Unfortunately, the Sabres didn’t have much of it in this game.
“Eichel’s market was not what it would have been because of the cap burden and the injury,” one NHL general manager told ESPN on Thursday.
On Wednesday, a “offer” from the Calgary Flames was leaked, making star forward Matthew Tkachuk the focus. This was the clearest indication that Buffalo GM Kevyn Adams wasn’t receiving enough value in his Jack Eichel deal. To persuade the Golden Knights to boost their offer, it seemed like a very blatant message via the media. They didn’t accept the bait based on this response.
On October 12, the NHL season began. There will be 103 exclusive regular-season games across ESPN, ESPN+, Hulu, and ABC this season, as well as more than 1,000 out-of-market games on ESPN+. • How to watch: Sign up for ESPN+. • Watch NHL games on ESPN.
Teams couldn’t (or wouldn’t) trade for Eichel because of his wanted surgery, which the Sabres couldn’t modify. They couldn’t alter the reality that certain clubs, namely the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers, chose a different course to avoid giving up their valuable assets in exchange for Eichel. (An Eichel trade in Los Angeles could have been two years too early for their prospect growth curve.)
By keeping payroll on the transaction, the Sabres may have altered the reality that teams balked at the $10 million cap burden through 2025-26. Other teams would have been able to enter the market as a result. Would the first-rounder from Vegas still be lottery-protected if the Sabres had taken on some of Eichel’s contract freight if the Sabres had taken on some of Eichel’s salary freight?
On the Eichel deal, Adams and the team’s owners, Terry and Kim Pegula, had to swallow their pride and swallow some dough. In the NHL, weaponizing cap space is the name of the game. This is something that smart clubs like New Jersey and Carolina are aware of. It would have been no different in the case of the Eichel trade: wouldn’t it have been worth $5 million per year through 2025-26 to greatly boost the reward for Eichel from clubs like the Colorado Avalanche?
So that’s the scenario. In terms of what the Sabres really got here, the feedback has been divided.
“It’s a great bargain for Vegas, if he returns back to full health. Having said that, I’m not opposed to Buffalo’s strategy. When healthy, Tuch and Krebs are two excellent NHL players who have been under club control for some time “According to one NHL general manager.
This is correct: Tuch, who is 25, has an AAV of $4.75 million through 2025-26. He’s also a Syracuse native who attended the game with 400 friends and family when the Knights visited Buffalo in 2017-18. A player who would be happy to play in western New York. Think about it.
Tuch is a goal-scoring power forward who does not always lead his line’s offensive. However, he’s a capable player in need of a bigger role, which he’ll find in Buffalo.
Krebs, 20, is under contract through 2023-34, after which he will be a restricted free agent. He’s a three-zone player who’s also a great playmaker and a passionate competitor. At least, he was until he got to the AHL and NHL, where we haven’t seen enough of him yet.
One NHL talent evaluator wondered, “If Peyton Krebs is so outstanding, why wasn’t he on the Golden Knights this year?” Given the team’s lack of center depth and desire for inexpensive labor, it’s a valid issue.
However, one NHL official thought the return was greater than the others. “It’s really rather good. Krebs is a legitimate potential, while Tuch is a competent player on a nice deal. Eichel is amazing, but $10 million is a lot of money, and his injury is unknown “they said
Linda Cohn and Emily Kaplan, hosts, bring their hockey knowledge and enthusiasm to the show, analyzing the latest news from the league and interviewing the greatest stars on and off the rink. Listen to it here »
The Sabres had a difficult time completing this deal due to difficulties with Eichel’s health and contract. They could have maximized their return in a number of ways, but they didn’t. However, many of the conditions in this situation were beyond their control.
The Ryan O’Reilly trade, which was the last time a top center wanted out of Buffalo, haunts the whole club. Only forward Tage Thompson and youngster Ryan Johnson remain in the mix after the team’s 2018 acquisitions. O’Reilly was receiving the Conn Smythe Trophy for the Stanley Cup winner Blues as the Sabres were pondering their trade blunder. It still hurts.
It’s difficult not to be worried that the same thing may happen with Eichel and this deal, even if the return seems to be more promising at first sight.
The greatest flaw in this deal for Buffalo is that it had to happen in the first place. That a move was required because the sentiments between a franchise player and his club had become so enmity — whether it was due to incompetent management that resulted in a lifetime of team failure or the reluctance to give Eichel the medical treatment he sought.
More than the start of a new era for the Sabres, Thursday felt like the conclusion of the Jack Eichel era in Buffalo.
The “nhl trade grades blues” is a blog post that discusses the grades of recent NHL trades. The author looks at each team’s grade and gives insight into what they were thinking when they made the deals.
- nhl trade grades flyers
- nhl trade tracker
- sabres news
- jack eichel news
- jack eichel rangers