And so now we ask the question: Which team will be responsible for paying the remaining $50 million on Jack Eichel’s contract?
That’s really where the conversation must start if you’re a team thinking of calling the Sabres this offseason.
In a flat-cap environment and an NHL economy still recovering, the first thing on every team’s mind has to be Eichel’s worth vis-a-vis five more years on his deal at a $10-million AAV. Especially when bringing this up with ownership before getting the green light to go after him.
Can you win with him? The Sabres certainly didn’t. How much of that does he wear?
How much are you willing to give up to get him?
What’s his health situation?
Important questions to answer for any team having internal discussions about Eichel.
What will also come up a lot in those discussions? He’s only 24. He’s still an offensive stud. And he’s a No. 1 center.
This much we know: Eichel isn’t hiding how he feels about his situation with the Sabres, using his season-ending media availability Monday to more or less say he’s done with the team.
Although it should be noted that Eichel’s camp, led by agent Peter Fish, has not officially asked for a trade (yet), a source confirmed Tuesday. The two sides haven’t talked for a few weeks. But one suspects that conversation is coming.
The timing is not ideal for the organization. You hate trading any player when his value is at his lowest, but a franchise player after an injury-riddled, nightmare season? In a flap cap world?
They should have traded him last offseason, one rival team executive said to me Tuesday. Hindsight.
Otherwise, the best script for the Sabres would have been to have a healthy Eichel come back next season, light it up, and then if he still felt the same about a change of scenery, use either the trade deadline next season or early next offseason before July 1.
But the team doesn’t hold all the cards. The player has made his feelings known. And while he can’t literally force a trade, he’s under contract to the Sabres, as we saw with Pierre-Luc Dubois in Columbus and Patrik Laine in Winnipeg, probably best to cut your losses once the world knows what’s up