The Jack Eichel sweepstakes are finally over and it’s the Vegas Golden Knights who have fittingly hit the jackpot.
The Buffalo Sabres agreed to trade the injured star center — who was in a stalemate with the organization — along with a 2023 3rd round pick to Vegas for forwards Peyton Krebs, Alex Tuch, a top-10 protected first-round pick in 2022, and a third-round pick in 2023, according to multiple reports Thursday.
It brings an end to a continuous drama with enough twists and turns for the soap channel — all deriving from the ineptitude of the Sabres.
Since being drafted second overall by the team in 2015, just behind Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid, Eichel has been one of the only lone bright spots for a Sabres team that has consistently been amongst the worst in the NHL.
Through his first five seasons, he averaged 27 goals and 40 assists per year while flirting with a point-per-game pace.
While the Sabres rewarded him with a nine-year contract, instability from leadership trickled down to a team that finished dead-last in the NHL in 2018. After narrowly missing the playoffs in 2019, Eichel — now the captain — began finding his voice to the press, calling the team’s performances under former head coach Phil Housley “embarrassing.”
It only continued to nosedive from there.
The 2020-21 season featured the Sabres tying an NHL record with 18 consecutive losses before Eichel was shut down for the year due to a herniated disk in his neck which ultimately put the wheels in motion for his trade.
Eichel wanted an artificial disk replacement surgery but the Sabres did not allow it, initially opting to go the route of rest and rehabilitation before admitting that surgery was, in fact, needed. However, the Sabres still did not want to go the route of an artificial disk replacement procedure because their team doctors weren’t comfortable with it having never been performed on an NHL player.
The difference in opinion ultimately bled into the 2021-22 preseason, which not only saw Eichel fail his physical due to his injured neck but prompted Sabres management to strip him of his captaincy.
“At this point, Jack is not willing to move forward with what our doctors are suggesting is the fusion surgery,” Sabres GM Kevyn Adams said at the time. “So we’re going to continue to work toward solutions… What I would say was we’re open to [a trade]. Like I’ve said before, with any player, how do we make our organization better? We have a plan.”
A number of teams had been linked to Eichel in recent months including the New York Rangers. But the notion of such a deal evaporated when they rewarded Mika Zibanejad with a lengthy eight-year extension.
Per reports, the Calgary Flames had been in advanced talks with the Sabres for Eichel as recent as this week.
With Vegas, Eichel will finally get the artificial disk replacement surgery he wanted as soon as this week. The 25-year-old can then begin skating in six weeks but won’t be cleared for contact for up to three months.
That opens the possibility of him being available for the Golden Knights’ stretch run before the playoffs, which would provide a considerable boost to a team that is already seen as one of the favorites in the Western Conference alongside the Colorado Avalanche.
This first appeared on AMNY.com