A whole bunch of teams will be on their toes with excitement in the event Jack Eichel is actually put on the trade market by the Buffalo Sabres. And any club on the fence about at least making a phone call should contemplate the fact it’s been 15 years since we saw a centre this accomplished and young dealt -- and that guy is still racking up a point-per-game a few months shy of his 42nd birthday.
The entire hockey world was jolted when a 26-year-old Joe Thornton was traded by the Boston Bruins to the San Jose Sharks on the last day of November in 2005 for Brad Stuart, Marco Sturm and Wayne Primeau. That out-of-the-blue move was a very different dynamic than the slow-drip brewing in Buffalo, where the icky pale of losing is sticking to everyone. The infamously underwhelming return for Thornton -- who’s producing like a pup again while playing left wing on a deadly Toronto trio -- is also, presumably, not something that would resemble any haul the Sabres would receive for Eichel. But the fact pivots the calibre of Thornton and Eichel -- who doesn’t turn 25 until October -- so infrequently get moved in their prime begs the question, what does a trade package for a superstar centre even look like in this sport?
A quick round of housekeeping before we dive into this. For those wondering about another big-time Boston centre moved in the cap era, Tyler Seguin was a good player dripping with potential when he was dealt in 2013, but hadn’t developed into the force he became in Dallas. Trading Eichel would be a different ball of wax.
Also, Eichel is locked up at a cap hit of $10 million for the next five years. That’s an extremely palatable number for a guy who has averaged over a point-per-game dating back to 2017-18 and would likely be even more prolific than that if he had the benefit of some higher-end running mates.
Finally, we have to acknowledge Eichel has not asked to be moved, nor have the Sabres indicated they’re on the precipice of dealing him. It’s just logic-infused speculation at this point, because the rumblings are getting harder to ignore and who wouldn’t be fed up with more than a half-decade of losing?