Which teams can actually afford a Jack Eichel trade?

Jack Eichel Trade
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The Jack Eichel situation seems to have reached its breaking point in Buffalo, going from contentious to downright ugly.

He clearly wants to have his preferred surgery, he clearly wants moved somewhere else, and it only seems to be a matter of when he actually gets traded.

But for as ugly as the situation is the Sabres are still not going to just give him away. Nor can they. He is still Jack Eichel, he is still one of the best players in the league, and if they are going to move him they have to make sure they get back everything they can for him. General manager Kevyn Adams’ asking price reportedly focuses on four young assets that are the equivalent of a first-round pick. If we are being realistic he is probably not going to get that. They might get something close to that, but the return will definitely be lower than that price. Just because that is how these things work.

Still, any team that wants to trade him for will need two things: 1) a way to clear enough salary cap space to take his $10 million per year salary cap number, and 2) enough young assets to pay Buffalo’s asking price.

Let’s look at the possibilities.

The Favorites

New York Rangers

This has always been one of the obvious teams. They are ready to compete, are feeling pressure to compete, have enough salary cap space to swing for the fences, and are swimming in talented young assets that Buffalo would almost certainly love to acquire. They still have $13 million in salary cap space for this season and more than $34 million next season with 13 players signed under contract. They do have some significant raises coming in the short term (Adam Fox, Igor Shesterkin, Mika Zibanejad) but they should still have enough flexibility to make it work.

Los Angeles Kings

Salary cap space is a little more limited following the additions of Viktor Arvidsson and Phillip Danault, but the salary cap has never stopped a team from acquiring a player it badly wants before and it will not stop them now. The Kings also have one of the deepest farm systems in hockey. It would also be ideal for Buffalo to ship Eichel to the Western Conference where they would only see him twice per season. If the Kings could get Eichel their center depth with him, Danault, and Anze Kopitar would be as good as any team in the NHL.

[Related: Every free agent signing by all 32 NHL teams]

Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks are desperate for a star and have a nearly clean slate to work with next season from a contract perspective. They only have eight players under contract for the 2022-23 sesaon and none of them make more than $6.5 million per season. They could easily afford the contract from a salary cap perspective and they do have some promising young players that might intrigue Buffalo, including Trevor Zegras, Jamie Drysdale, and Max Comtois.

It makes sense, but will take some work

Vegas Golden Knights

You can never rule out Vegas in these situations because you just never know what these guys are going to do. They will move out whoever they need to move out to get the player they want, cut whatever they need to cut, and be as ruthless as the situation calls for. They have already exhausted a lot of their young assets in prior trades, but you have to assume somebody like Alex Tuch (for salary cap purposes) and Peyton Krebs (top prospect) would be the focal point.

Minnesota Wild

The Wild clearly wanted to get involved in this — and Eichel would be absolutely perfect for them from a hockey standpoint — but do not want to meet the asking price. I also question how realistic it is given the salary cap situation over the next few years where they will have between $12-15 million in empty salary cap space due to the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts.

Wild cards

Boston Bruins

Eichel has already made it clear that he would like to someday play for his hometown team, and with David Krejci on his way back to the Czech Republic there is an obvious hole on their second line. Eichel would also eventually take the torch from Patrice Bergeron as the new No. 1 center in the future. From a hockey standpoint it makes total sense. The problem: The Bruins do not have a ton of salary cap flexibility and they are badly lacking in young assets that Buffalo would want. It also seems impossible to think that the Pegula’s would allow Eichel to end up in their same division.

Nashville Predators

Okay this one is just a total shot in the dark here and my own speculation and “what if” game. But the Predators are swimming in salary cap space this offseason and have a ton of flexibility for next season, they need a superstar like Eichel to be a franchise cornerstone at forward, and they have a general manager that has a knack for building his team through blockbuster trades (with varying degrees of success). Nobody has ever mentioned the Predators in this, maybe because they do not have the young assets to trade that Buffalo would want, but there is enough reason to think they should at least explore it.

 

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.