Jack Eichel saga ends as Sabres deal forward to Golden Knights

Jack Eichel has been traded to the Vegas Golden Knights for a package of Alex Tuch, prospect Peyton Krebs, and draft picks. The Buffalo Sabres, who will not be retaining any salary, will also send a 2023 third-round pick Vegas’ way.

“We are getting a player that I think is one of the top players in the league, one of the top centers in the league,” said Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon. “It addresses a need in our organization. For me, when you look at what an NHL contending team should look like, he’s a really important piece of that.”

Here are conditions on those draft picks:

If Vegas’ First Round draft pick in the 2022 NHL Draft is not a top-10 pick (following the Draft Lottery results) then:

– Vegas will transfer its own First Round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft and its own Second Round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft to Buffalo
– Buffalo will transfer its own Third Round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft to Vegas

If Vegas’ First Round draft pick in the 2022 NHL Draft is a top-10 pick (following the Draft Lottery results) then:

– Vegas will transfer its own First Round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft and its own Second Round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft to Buffalo
– Buffalo will transfer its own Third Round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft to Vegas

Years of losing soured Eichel on staying in Buffalo. That, along with a disagreement between the player and Sabres franchise on how to treat his neck injury were why he desired a trade.

“I’d be lying to say that things have moved smoothly since my injury,” Eichel said in May. “There’s been a bit of a disconnect between myself and the organization. It’s been tough at times. The most important thing now is to try to get healthy, figure out a way to be available to play hockey next year, wherever that might be.”

[MORE: Golden Knights have questions to answer before Eichel debut]

Eichel, 25, suffered the neck injury during a March game against the Islanders. He prefers artificial disk replacement surgery, something that has never been done on an NHL player. Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams said the team wanted him to have the disk fused.

As per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams have the final say on treating player injuries, which is why Eichel could not just go and get his preferred surgery in the summer.

As the dispute lingered on, it was clear there would be no resolution between the two sides. As training camp opened in September, Eichel failed his physical, as expected, and was stripped of his captaincy. “From our perspective and my perspective, I feel the captain is the heartbeat of your team. And we’re in a situation from where we were in the past and where we are now that we felt we needed to address that and make that decision,” Adams said at the time.

Eichel, the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft, carries a $10 million cap hit as part of a contract that runs through the 2025-26 season and features a no-move clause that kicks in next summer. In 375 games with the Sabres he scored 139 goals and recorded 355 points.

What the Sabres are getting

The 25-year-old Tuch had shoulder surgery in July and has yet to play this season. He’s expected to hit the ice again in January and carries a $4.75 million cap hit through 2025-26. The upstate New York native scored 61 times and recorded 139 points in 249 games for the Golden Knights.

Krebs, 20, was the prospect Adams reportedly wanted in any deal involving Vegas. He was picked 17th overall in the 2019 NHL Draft out of the Western Hockey League. He’s spent parts of the past two seasons between the American Hockey League and NHL. Adams said the team will have him begin in AHL Rochester.

Eichel will have his preferred surgery

McCrimmon said on Thursday that Eichel will have disk replacement surgery soon. There is no timetable on a return.

“It’s really challenging to give you a timeframe because this surgery has never been done in this sport,” McCrimmon said. “I keep thinking 4-5 months, maybe 3-4 months.”

That timeframe would put Eichel out of consideration for the U.S. men’s Olympic team for February’s tournament.

“We’re respectful of what he wants to do,” McCrimmon said. “Why wouldn’t his people want what’s best for him? None of us in this room have the medical expertise to have an opinion.”

No hard feelings

Despite the stalemate that was tense at times, Adams said that he had a long talk with Eichel following the trade and that he wished him well.

“I care about Jack Eichel as a person,” Adams said Thursday. “I told him that. I wish him nothing but the best for him. I want nothing more than for Jack to get healthy. I also told him nothing in this was personal.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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