Jack Eichel
Courtesy IG: @buffalosabres

Buffalo’s unhappy star wants out. But would he fit with the Rangers?

Tab Bamford

If you follow the NHL, you’re already well aware there are two superstars hitting the trade market this summer: Columbus defenseman Seth Jones and Buffalo center Jack Eichel.

The Rangers don’t seem to be in need of Jones; their blue line is young and in pretty good shape. But the prospect of adding a big center in Eichel is at least tempting to consider.

But would a deal for Eichel make sense for the Rangers? Let’s dig in a bit.

The Player Fit

The Rangers, like most teams, would benefit from adding a healthy, motivated Eichel.

Originally the second overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, Eichel scored 137 goals in 354 regular season games with the Sabres. He has yet to appear in a postseason game, however.

He has five more years on his current contract at a $10.5 million cap hit. Is he worth the money? Many believe yes.

Having used high recent picks on Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafrenière, both wings, having a dominant top center would be a terrific addition to the Rangers’ youth movement. And with a new front office looking to go fit it now, Eichel is the kind of player who could elevate the offense immediately — if he’s healthy.

The Money Problem

While we hate raining on the potential of a deal for Eichel, the Rangers must keep their money in mind. The cap isn’t moving much for the 2021-22 season because of the pandemic, but it should grow well in the future because of the new television deals in the United States.

And the Rangers aren’t overwhelmed with enormous, long-term deals at the moment. In 4-5 years the Rangers have a little over $26 million committed to three players currently: Artemi Panarin, Jacob Trouba and Chris Kreider. Panarin and Kreider will both be on the “wrong” side of 30 soon, however (Kreider is already there). So adding a younger Eichel would make sense there, too.

But…

The Rangers have some significant contracts they need to keep in mind if they’re going to add one major player at $10.5 million.

Specifically, we’re looking at Adam Fox. He played at a Norris-caliber level this year and has one season remaining on his entry-level contract. If he continues to play as well as he did this year, Fox could be looking at a long-term deal of his own in the $8-10 million range.

If we play that forward, the Rangers could suddenly have (including Eichel) five players nearly $50 million in four years.

And, as we were reminded more than once during these playoffs, Carey Price of the Canadiens just became the first player making more than $10 million to win a playoff series.

The Rangers also have two years to commit to K’Andre Miller on the blue line. And will have to extend both Kakko and Lafrenière at some point — if none of those three was included in the package to get Eichel.

The point: the Rangers are in a good place with some young players emerging as potential stars who will need to get paid at some point. So the cost to acquire Eichel would need to take money off the books now and in the future.

Potential Package

So what would the Rangers have to offer the Sabres to land Eichel? Let’s also keep in mind the financial considerations outlined above.

We’ll start a package with the RFA rights of Pavel Buchnevich. The 26-year-old forward scored 20 goals in the short 2021 season. After posting 94 points in 122 games over the past two years, he has emerged as a legit top-line caliber player.

But, if the Rangers are adding Eichel, they can’t afford a new deal with Buchnevich. So include his rights in the deal.

The big question is which other young forward the Rangers would be willing to include? They would probably have to choose from a list including Kakko, Filip Chytil, Julien Gauthier, Brett Howden and Vitali Kravtsov. If the Rangers could avoid including Kakko and Chytil that would be ideal, but perhaps not likely.

The good news is the Rangers could include a couple pieces on the blue line; the bad news is the Sabres landed the No. 1 overall pick (presumably Owen Power) and have Rasmus Dahlin, Henri Jokiharju and Rasmus Ristolainen already in place.

Let’s say the Rangers include Matthew Robertson, a good, young defenseman still on his entry-level deal.

So a full package could look like:

  • Rangers receive Jack Eichel
  • Sabres receive Pavel Buchnevich, Filip Chytil, Brett Howden, Matthew Robertson + the Rangers’ first-round pick in 2021 (#15 overall)

Would you make that deal? Would the Sabres? And should the Rangers make the offer considering the future financial impact of the trade?

Those are all questions a new front office will need to ponder — and soon. The Eichel Sweepstakes figures to heat up as the playoffs draw closer to the Stanley Cup Final.