Sabers’ Jack Eichel situation stifles celebration of NHL Draft Lottery win
Winning the 2021 NHL Draft lottery should be a reason for the Buffalo Sabers to celebrate.
With the best chance of landing the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft next month – 16.6% – due to their last place overall last season, the Sabers were fortunate enough to bounce back for the second time in four years old and will choose N ° 1.
The Sabers had already won the lottery in 2018 and selected defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, who showed signs he could be a star but, like many of the Sabers’ top prospects, did not quite reach his potential. playing in a losing environment for several coaches over the past few years.
Ironically, Dahlin has yet to become a franchise defenseman, and the number 1 North American skater available in this year’s draft is another defenseman: Michigan’s Owen Power. There’s not a lot of hype yet about him being a key player, but sure enough he could land in Buffalo and have a spectacular brace with Dahlin.
“There are a lot of good players in this draft so we’re excited about that. … This is a big step in the right direction where we are heading, ”CEO Kevyn Adams said Wednesday.
It’s difficult to celebrate anything right now for the Sabers, though. The club are in a medical dispute with star center Jack Eichel, and if he doesn’t rectify the situation, Buffalo could find itself further behind in rebuilding than it was during its 2020-21 collapse.
The 6-foot-2, 203-pound Eichel, with five more seasons on his contract at an average annual value of $ 10 million over the salary cap, is struggling with a herniated disc problem that cut his season short. He wants surgery that has never been done on a professional hockey player. The Sabers disagree with Eichel’s desire, a position Adams reaffirmed on Monday.
If Eichel is unhappy with both the medical dispute and the Sabers’ disappointing performance on the ice (he has never made the Stanley Cup playoffs and the Sabers have not qualified since 2011), Buffalo could be the one. to exchange. But what is the value of a star player with a serious illness who wishes to undergo a unique procedure?
If they keep him and he regains his health, will he be able to produce for an organization with which he has had such a serious disagreement?
It’s an unenviable position for the Sabers, especially for Adams, who will only be in his second season as NHL general manager. Perhaps selecting a new Eichel-approved head coach will help. Maybe choice # 1 will make staying with Buffalo more appealing. Or maybe there’s a team ready to offer the Sabers the kind of young recruiting and picking that would make an Eichel trade worthwhile for an organization that may need to move from second overall pick to draft. from 2015.
If they trade Eichel (or even if they don’t), they might also consider dealing with restricted free agent Sam Reinhart and veteran defender Rasmus Ristolainen, who has signed for one more season at 5. , $ 4 million. They already have two second-round picks and two third-round picks this season in addition to the No.1 pick, and they could continue to rebuild their prospect pool through a series of trades. They could also use their $ 32 million cap space like many teams did last season, storing draft picks in exchange for a reduction in the salary cap burden on other teams involved in the exchanges. .
It seems, however, that an organization that has known misery for more than a decade should plan for a future built around Eichel, Dahlin and the No. 1 Global Pick of 2021, and instead, all that ‘it has is uncertainty and a possible longer reconstruction. to face.