If you’re a frequent Brotherly Puck reader, chances are you remember the hit Jack Eichel trade scenario piece that was published last summer. It formulated a trade based around a player that had just scored 36 goals and 78 points during the shortened 68-game campaign and was showing discontent after the Sabres were about to miss the playoffs for ninth straight season. The king’s ransom the Sabres could’ve secured would have been franchise altering, but just 12 months later, the rumors of his impending trade have picked up steam once again, but his value on the market has come with a few big question marks.
Eichel missed three quarters of the 2021 season with a lingering neck injury that was later announced as a herniated disc. When the exit interviews after the season rolled around, Eichel said he wanted surgery to fix the issue, but the doctor’s recommendation was to simply rest for a few months. The impasse was the straw that broke the camel’s back and the already fractured relationship between Eichel and the Sabres’ front office has seemingly become irreparable.
The Flyers have been at least linked to Eichel as Elliotte Friedman has connected Philly to the 24-year-old amongst half a dozen other teams vying for his services. Now, as a trade seems like the only way this soap opera will end, once again it’s time to reassess his value in the trade market after a woeful season and medical uncertainty may have dinged his value a bit.
Even though Eichel only suited up for 21 games this season, he still managed to record 18 points. In his six NHL seasons, he has never scored less than 24 goals and racked up 36 last year. He’s just shy of a point-per-game player over his 375 NHL games with 355 points. There’s no doubt that when Eichel is healthy he is one of the best players in the game today, and he’s done it all in Buffalo with practically zero offensive support.
Obviously, at this point the biggest issue when talking about putting a value on Eichel is the medical state he is in. There’s been very little clear stories put out to the public. All we know is Eichel is (was?) dealing witha herniated disc in his neck and he wanted surgery to repair the issue but the team didn’t want him to get it and the doctor ordered 12 weeks rest. The questions range from- Does he need surgery? Is he willing to go a different route than a never-before-tried surgery? And possibly the biggest question of them all- Is he still injured? There was never a clear timeline put on Eichel and thus the state of his neck is currently unknown. Did the 12 weeks or rest do the trick? Is he good to go today and the option for surgery was something discussed months ago that is now off the table? All this plays a part of the real life aspect of acquiring the star forward.
For argument’s sake, let’s say Eichel doesn’t need surgery and is good to go for the 2021-22 season. The biggest hurdle for any acquiring team will be the $10 million price tag Eichel carries with him. He’s got five years left on that deal, which is a huge ask to add in a regular year let alone during the flat cap era which has no end in sight.
The basis of the trade penned in the original piece was circled around Flyers center Sean Couturier, much to the chagrin of most fans. Though, with the questions surrounding Eichel, the Flyers may be able to do a deal without losing their star forward. Instead, this deal would be all about making the cap work. The Sabres have a hair over $34 million to play with this summer, not counting the $10 that Eichel commands. So they’d be able to take on extra salary in the deal so a team like the Flyers could have the wiggle room to eat such a large sum of money.
Instead of Couturier, let’s center this deal around 24-year-old winger Travis Konency, who he himself is looking to bounce back from a down season. He posted three consecutive 24-goal seasons from 2017 to 2020 and a career high in points during the 2019-20 campaign. He has four years left on a deal that pays him $5.5 million annually.
Throw in Shayne Gostisbehere, the 28-year-old defenseman who carries a $4.5 million cap hit and the money works out perfectly. Ghost has been a polarizing figure during his six seasons in Philly. From a dynamic offensive defenseman to an oft-injured player who regularly finds himself in the press box, Gostisbehere did finally manage to break out of his funk and record 20 points in 41 games during the 2021 season, well on pace to have been the best season of his career.
With the cap figured out, this is where the trade would get down to the meat and potatoes of the deal for the Sabres. Buffalo is a team seemingly stuck in a perpetual rebuild and can never have a lack of young talent, and even though the Flyers are lacking in truly elite youngsters, they could overwhelm the Sabres with high-end-but-not-quite-elite prospects instead.
They’d probably demand the Flyers’ top prospect, that being defenseman Cam York. York, fresh off captaining Team USA to a gold medal at the World Juniors, suited up for three NHL games at the end of the 2021 season and didn’t look out of place in that time. He’s just 20 years old and seemingly has boatloads of potential at the highest level. Trading away someone of his caliber won’t be easy, but it could be the piece that shifts the negotiations in the Flyers’ favor if a bidding war ensues with teams across the league.
Elsewhere the Flyers have plenty of middle-of-the-road forward prospects such as Morgan Frost, who is seemingly the odd man out of the forward core after a rocky start to the professional career. He could be best served as a trade chip and sent to a team where he’d have copious opportunity to succeed at the NHL level.
From a roster standpoint, that should be enough. I’m sure the Sabres would want a draft pick or two just to seal the deal, an offer the Flyers should have no problem answering. Say a pair of second round picks, one in 2021 and the other in 2022. Even if the Sabres wanted a first round pick next season, that shouldn’t dissuade the Flyers from making the deal.
Would that secure the deal? Konency, Ghost, York, Frost and two second round picks. That’s a substantial drop from the first attempt, but feels close to accurate given all the new question marks coming from the Eichel camp. Even though they’re losing their two top prospects, it leaves them with their first round picks and a few other roster pieces like Sanheim and Myers to potentially deal in their search for a top defenseman.
There are many different angles to approach the Eichel trade from. The injury concern is obviously at the forefront of any deal that happens and may play a role in devaluing him in a trade even further. Though it’s important to remember the player we’re taking about here. Eichel is a guy with 139 goals and 355 points to his name, all coming in Buffalo with little-to-no help. Imagine the potential he could unlock on a line with a playmaker like Claude Giroux or a goalscorer like Joel Farabee. With the proper linemates, a 40-goal, 100-point season isn’t out of the realm of possibility. And that $10 million price tag is an intimidating number, there’s no hiding that, especially with Sean Couturier in the market for a new deal next summer. Though a one-two punch of Eichel and Couturier down the middle may make them one of the best center duos in the league. The perfect mix of offense and defense.
It’s a welcome treat to have the Flyers’ name actually be swirling in the trade rumor mill once again. If they’re going to get their feet wet they may as well jump all the way in and get someone worth acquiring. Simply put- It’s go time in Philly. Chuck Fletcher needs to make some huge strides forward to save this ship from sinking altogether. Is this trade a risk? sure. Is it one possibly worth the reward? Absolutely.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: reuters.com