We’ve been vocal in our support to make a move for Jack Eichel in the past. He’s a young superstar center locked up on a relatively reasonable contract for the next five seasons.
While it’s up in the air whether or not he’s actually available. The Buffalo Sabres are in absolute shambles on — and off — the ice and are no doubt desperately looking to make a change. Just this past week, they shipped off former Wild player Eric Staal to the Montreal Canadiens for a pittance.
Montreal sends a third- and fifth-round pick to Buffalo for Eric Staal.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) March 26, 2021
Eric Staal is in the final year of a contract and was brought in to shore up a roster management probably saw as playoff-bound. This goes without saying, but the Buffalo Sabres — now on a historic 18-game losing steak — are absolutely nowhere near that goal. It wasn’t much of a return, but the move does indicate that GM Kevyn Adams is ready and willing to make moves to change the team.
Eichel is 24, logs heavy minutes, and is locked up for five more seasons at a nice and tidy cap hit of $10,000,000.
Whether we like to acknowledge it or not, the Wild have a dire organizational need at center. Victor Rask should never be a first-line option. Joel Eriksson Ek — who has had a wonderful season — can be serviceable, but would be much more suitable as a world-beating second option.
We don’t want to have a tough conversation about Marco Rossi. He is so young, but I’m very cautious about the long-term effects of his bout with COVID, one that has seen him sidelined for an entire season. The chances that Rossi becomes the first-line center are slim. That isn’t a slight against him as a player, his draft slot, or how sure I am about how COVID limited his development, but simply a statement of fact about how most players don’t become a minute-munching, productive center pivot.
Stud first-line centers are had to come by as it is, arguably there are only a 15-20 in the league at any one point. A first-line center is something more than just the center that logs the most minutes on any given team. And, throughout the organization, I don’t see one. And if this roster has shown anything this year, it’s that the young guys are contributing with room to improve and that this team may be further away from a rebuilding organization and closer to a competitive team as is.
In Sportsnet’s “Writers Bloc” podcast, Renaud speculated about the price to get Jack Eichel from Buffalo as being what most would consider astronomical:
the more I think about it, if it's just futures the Sabres want, then you 100% do this if you are the Wild. pic.twitter.com/Sf33TcBkfN— From Tape to Tape (@fromtapetotape) March 24, 2021
Four-first round picks! FOUR!
“Outrageous!” you say.
But not all first-round picks are the same in a vacuum. The Minnesota Wild are currently in 11th place in the league right now, and are likely to not move much from that top half, barring some disaster. I don’t think you would actually have to pay that price, but let’s entertain the idea and figure out what the actual value of those picks would be. Lots of work has been done on the chances on success for a pick based solely on the position they were drafted, but I am specifically going to cite Dom Luszczyszyn’s work on the value of specific draft picks.
Draft pick value for each pick (measured in wins over a prospect's first seven seasons according to GSVA) pic.twitter.com/OJJvhkSCr1— dom at the athletic (@domluszczyszyn) October 6, 2020
If you make a move for Eichel by simply moving pieces that are not currently on the roster, it’s a safe bet this team would solidly be a leader in this division. Eichel is a franchise piece, with a pretty flawed roster around him. Not so much the case if he was in a Wild jersey. If you add to Eichel to this roster without taking much away, they become pretty safely in the top-third of the league.
The entire value of those for picks, if we assume they do end in the 22-32 range, is less collectively worth less than number one pick in any given year (generally). They are closer in value to second-round picks.
The average age of the team — 27.9 years old — is in the top third of the league, but is largely buoyed by 36-year olds Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. This team is young, by and large. And it may not suit management to wait for some 18-20 year-old prospects to age into roles.
What would it take?
The asking price of four first-round or recent first-round picks is the word on the street. The last time I posited a trade for Eichel, I suggested this as the move:
Potential Jack Eichel Trade
|To Minnesota Wild||To Buffalo Sabres|
|To Minnesota Wild||To Buffalo Sabres|
|Jack Eichel||Matt Dumba|
|Joel Eriksson Ek|
|1st Round Pick (2021)|
At the time I considered this an in-season move, but that’s probably off the table now for both organizations. For the development of this team, I’d rather let the young guys carry them to the playoffs and let them see what they can do, especially Kirill Kaprizov.
There is a running joke for fans of the Sabres to offer up a ridiculous trade anytime someone from another fanbase, this was the response I got:
Rossi and 3 firsts. Rossi, Boldy and 2 firsts, sure why not eat arbys— Kevin (@ntrider825) March 24, 2021
As I was back when I first wrote about a trade, I’m not big on trading Matthew Boldy, he just finished up a great season with Boston College, looked great at World Juniors, and is pretty much the stereotypical Wild forward with what projects to be strong two-way play. His inclusion isn’t a deal-breaker, but I’d avoid it.
The first option? Wouldn’t think twice about it.
A first-overall pick is a pretty wide net. Not everyone is Eriksson Ek. Some are Luke Kunin (15th overall in 2016). Or Tyler Cuma (23rd overall in 2008).
Eichel fits the timeline of the team, fills a huge need and it wouldn’t really gut the future or the present of the organization. It’s a no-brainer move.