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I have been thinking a lot about the likely inevitable trade of Jack Eichel (Jack) out of Buffalo. So having invested that time, This was initially written last week and posted only on Facebook (with a couple different versions) but I felt like telling someone whom might care about the proposed deal that I came up with after investing so much time coming up with it. Why not do it here? Admittedly, this is a fantasy league, GM for a day, type thing. I would not expect this trade to happen, though I think if it did the parts coming back might make the Sabres competitive sooner rather than later. Even assuming this deal doesn’t happen, I’d like to see one like one in similar rationale and return.

I start by giving you who I think should be traded for who. For any player involved I provide his position, age, his current cap hit, years left on his current contract and his free agency status at the end of that contract, taken from the www.Capfriendly.com website. That’s followed by a summary of the strategy I used in going after a trade like this and why I chose the New Jersey Devils as the ultimate trade partner. Then I discuss each of the players, prospects and picks that make up the trade. I try to do this from both the Sabre’s and trading teams’ perspectives.

THE TRADE:
to the Buffalo Sabres
Necessary parts (the boatload):
- C Hughes, Jack (20, 1 yr; $925,000, RFA)
- G Blackwood, Mackenzie (24, 2 yrs; $2.8 Million, Arbitration eligible RFA)
- RD Severson, Damon (26, 2 yrs; $4.166 Million, UFA)
- Prospect LW Foote, Nolan (20. 3 yrs; 863,333, RFA) AND
- 2021 First Round Pick (4th overall)
- 2022 First Round Pick
- 2021 Fifth Round Pick acquired from Buffalo (128th overall - 1st in round 5),

PLUS - (the yacht load): any one or any combination of: all negotiable, see below:
- RW Wood, Miles (25, 1 yrs; $2.750 Million, Arbitration eligible RFA), see revision
- Prospects: LD Smith, Ty (20, 2 yrs; $863,333, RFA)
- RW Thompson, Tyce (21; 1 yr, 925,000, RFA)

to the New Jersey Devils
- C Eichel, Jack (24, 5 yrs; $10 Million, UFA) - It’s all about him; well 85% anyway
- RD Ristolainen, Rasmus (26, 1 yr; 5.4 Million, UFA)
- Prospect, reserve list - RD Pilut, Lawrence (25, no k; currently unsigned but tendered RFA)
- ANYWHERE BETWEEN the 2021 5th Round Pick acquired from the Montreal Canadiens (158th overall) minimum to the Boston Bruins 2021 2nd Round Pick (52nd pick overall) depending on how much of the yacht load is acquired from NJ; negotiable, see below.

Rationale behind making the trade to any team:
FIRST, Though I think it is inevitable, the Sabres DO NOT HAVE to trade Jack now. He is under contract for 5 more years. His no movement clause does not kick in until next year so he could be traded to anyone at any point during the upcoming year. If they go in with the attitude that the trade can wait until a favorable one comes their way, then the Sabres get a strong advantage over any potential trading partner allowing the Sabres to get more out of them now. The trading partner would not, as the Blues did with the trade of Ryan O’Reilly, be able to say if you want it done today this is the trade, take it or leave it. No false deadlines.

SECOND, even though there is no rush, if the Sabres are going to rush then the trade should be completed not only before the start of next season: not only before the draft but actually before the expansion draft trade freeze starts at 5pm on July 17. Why protect Eichel if he isn’t going to play for you next year and you don’t want him to. Really should have posted this earlier.

THIRD, and very importantly, I would suggest that the Sabres take the position with any potential trade partner that they will be taking 100% of the risk of whether Jack is healthy or not. As such, the Sabres won’t take any health related discounts. As a sign of good faith, I’d allow access to Jack’s medical records and to those treating him.

FOURTH, as such, I would demand not only a boatload but a yacht load in return for Eichel. I would look for more than just prospects. I want players that can play on the top lines, whether offensive or defensive, in 2021-22. Prospects could be part of the deal but only as secondary pieces. I would take NO salary back unless the Sabres want the player being offered. There will be no equivalents to Patrik Berglund or Vladimir Sobotka in this trade. I want players that are for the most part going to be RFAs when their next contract comes up. I would want every player on the roster of the trade partner to be available to the Sabres.

FIFTH, Jack is one of the top players at any position in the NHL. With the right people around him, he is a perennial super-star, playoff-team-maker waiting to happen. So as far as I am concerned every team in the NHL that isn’t named the Buffalo Sabres would like to trade with the Buffalo Sabres for Jack. That demand drives the price up even though I would not make any in-division trade, and especially one with the Boston Bruins. Why make Jack happy?

Why the New Jersey Devils?:
First, not an in-division team. That out of the way, this article is already long enough so I won’t go through all the teams I looked at and what they had to offer. However, after my review, I believe that New Jersey has both the breadth and quality of players. prospects and picks that best fit the Sabres’ needs, especially with regard to filling the holes that will be created by trading both Risto and Jack. Many of the players and prospects they offer can be inserted into the Sabres lineup this season or the next to give the Sabres a chance to be competitive soon. The 2022 #1 draft pick gives the Sabres a shot at Shane Wright who is already touted as the #1 pick of that draft. If they don’t get Wright, the 2021 and 2022-1sts still put the Sabres in a position to draft high quality prospects or to make trades using those high picks. See revision.

However, just as paramount is that it seems that the Devils may be the partner most willing and able to give up all these assets. There are rumors that they have Risto already. If the interest is there then also the willingness to give up a decent return for him alone too. Now you add in Jack. I am guessing NJ understands that they are exchanging one really good player and a few mid-level players, for one very good player together with a great one for the foreseeable future (assuming they sign Risto). Access to Pilut too should be valuable to them. NJ already has 18 picks in the next two years, including the NY Islanders’ 2021-1st so giving up two firsts won’t hurt as much especially since they might get Boston’s 2021-2nd back from the Sabres.

The most important component of any good deal: this seems like a win-win for both teams. Both teams seem to get substantial pieces that have a chance of contributing to the acquiring team immediately. It will probably be a win for Eichel too. He is going to be playing in some of the biggest TV markets in the world increasing his advertising value and his star recognition around the NHL. Plus, he will be a hop, skip and a jump from Boston, his hometown. Sorry, there is no chance that the Sabres will trade him to Boston (God, could they be that stupid). Still, I can't see Jack trying to put a wrench into the works here. Wins all the way around.

As to the components of this trade:
Coming from New Jersey:
- C, Hughes - he is already a household name for those who follow the NHL. The 2019 overall #1 pick, he is good enough to come in and at least be considered as the Sabres first line center day one. He is currently Jersey’s first line center and a quality player in the NHL. At age 20, he will be a RFA for 5/6 more years. He, therefore, should be cost controlled, a bit. He has to be protected in the expansion draft^. The Devils would go for this, I think, because if there is no first line center for first line center then there is no discussion of a trade. More important to them is they are getting a proven NHL star who is already long into his career in exchange for a very good player who is young enough to be considered a prospect. Last incentives for the Sabres: you think making Hughes part of the deal instead of some unknown prospect won’t help the Sabres to sell tickets next year? How about as a reason to try to convince Reinhart, Sam to stay.

- G Blackwood - Unlike Hughes, Blackwood is no star, but he is competent. Last year was his worst in his 3 year NHL career however he has a career Goals Against Average (GAA) of 2.83 and a Save Percentage (Sv%) of .911. They compare nicely to the Sabres #1 goalie last year, Ullmark, Linus, who has a career 2.78 GAA and a .912 Sv%. Ullmark was the only goalie to have a winning percentage for the Sabres’ last year. So a good goalie but with a big downside in that he seems to be injury prone. Still, he would be a goalie you want on your roster except the Sabres only signed him to a one year RFA contract last year making him an unsigned UFA now. So Ullmark can walk away from Buffalo later this month. I hear his salary demands could be in the range of $5M per for four or five years. Hefty price for an oft injured player. Seems the Sabres would be right in thinking twice about resigning him at that price and for so long at this point.

In Blackwood the Sabres receive a good backup goalie if Ullmark resigns. If Ullmark doesn’t sign, then Blackwood makes for a viable #1 goaltender (I believe he was NJ’s last year). Having a goalie in hand that the Sabres can rely on makes Ullmark expendable. Not that you don’t try to sign Ullmark but now you can negotiate for less money and for a shorter term just in case his injury history is also a look into the future. Further, Blackwood is under contract for two years. This gives the Sabres goalie in waiting, Luukkonen, Ukko-Pekka, time to ferment in the minors for what some analysts I’ve read say is the time he needs to be NHL ready. Blackwood’s contract also allows the Sabres to pursue one of several potential good goalie free agents including Rask, Tuukka, BOS or Grubauer, Philipp, COL.

When you consider the benefits of picking up Blackwood, you might see the main reason that Blackwood is an essential part of this deal. No other team I looked at could legitimately offer a viable goalie in union with a starting center for Buffalo in the upcoming season. More than anything, this combination of factors made the Devils the trading partner of choice for me.

^If Ullmark signs, he likely should be the choice to be expansion draft protected. If he does not sign then Blackwood would be your protected goalie. The Sabres have Tokarski, Dustin, signed for the purpose of being the designated expansion draft goalie (turned out to be a whole lot more - good for him). As for Jersey, they would seem to be ok with trading Blackwood because first, if he is not included then there is no trade, but more importantly, second, he is not a superstar. He can be replaced. Maybe they can sign Ullmark, but if not, as stated, there are several good potential FA goalies available this year who might be cheaper than Ullmark.

- RD Severson from what I see is Risto with better analytics so it seems natural to try to get him to replace Risto. Why would the Devils trade Severson instead of keeping him in the lineup with Risto? Well, first, because they get both Ristolainen and Eichel if they make the trade. They may also want to get Severson's $4 Million plus off the books to make room for Eichel’s $10M and Risto’s $5.4M and a potential contract with Pilot. Severson would have to be protected in the expansion draft.^ Devil LD prospect Smith, Ty could replace him in this deal but Buffalo may need Severson’s salary to reach minimum salary cap requirements.

- Prospect LW Foote - We will leave some top level NJ prospects alone to make them more comfortable with the deal. Instead, the Sabres go after Foote who brings not only offense (he put up 33 points in 27 games for the Kelowna Rockets last season per thehockeywriters.com) but of more interest for Buffalo, per analysts I’ve read, he brings a very big body (6’4”, 200 lbs.) along with a physical style of play. He is seen as a good prospect for a power play unit. Buffalo needs all the help they can get in the areas of physical play and the power play. He may be able to play for them this year and he need not be exposed to the expansion draft. NJ has better prospects available so asking for a somewhat lesser quality prospect, who still fills Buffalo’s needs, may help pry both him and Severson from them.

- 2021 First Round Pick (4th overall) - you would truly have to be off to not know that this is an absolute part of this deal. No discussion. For NJ, not only should they go in understanding that but the sting is also lessened by the fact that they have the NY Islanders first round pick (28th overall). They have a boatload of other picks so they can easily give this one away.

Draft selection comment: I would hope that the Sabres select Luke Hughes (6-2, 176), D, (USA U-18) who will likely be available at 4. The NHL.com article , “2021 NHL Draft top 32 prospects include Power, Edvinsson, Clarke”, 1/23/21, Mike Morreale, describes him as such {emphasis added}, “Hughes is a solid puck mover with good poise who is committed to play at Michigan next season. He has a quick release from the point and has scored 25 points (six goals, 19 assists) in 23 games this season {as a defenseman}. The 17-year-old is the youngest brother of Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes and New Jersey Devils forward Jack Hughes”. Who was that last guy? Not only do the Sabres need more quality depth among their defensive corps but you think that picking Hughes up might act as an incentive to turn a guy who might not like the idea of coming to Buffalo into being pretty enthusiastic about it?

Bonus: ^I believe it was on WGR’s “Instigators” I heard it suggested it might be a good move to trade the Sabres #1 pick this year to Seattle to get their 1st round pick next year in order to have another shot at Shane Wright. This sounds good to me but only if the Sabres also got a 2021 fourth round pick from Seattle plus getting them to agree to take someone like Okposo, Kyle and his $6 Million contract off the Sabres’ books as their expansion draft selection from the Sabres. Seattle also gets back Montreal’s fifth from Buffalo. Having NJ’s 4th pick overall makes this a viable option for the Sabres. For Seattle it gives them the 1st AND 2nd pick of this year’s draft. They can pick whoever they want with both or sell off the second one. Further, other than his salary, Okposo would be a great pick up for Seattle in the way of a true leader who is still a viable player, helping them reach minimum cap requirements. Bonus for Buffalo with this trade is that they won’t have to think about who to protect in the expansion draft. Not holding my breath. - However, see update revision discussion below for further info on this^.

- 2022 First Round Pick - Remember me mentioning Shane Wright somewhere along the line. Well this pick gives the Sabres a second (or third) kick at the can in the lottery for next year’s overall first pick. The hope is Jersey will still be in a position to be involved in the draft lottery next year. Though this is not a “no brainer'' to include in the trade, such as the 2021 first round draft pick is, yet it is still one of the pieces that is essential to the Sabres to make this deal worthwhile to them. I think this is the toughest element of the trade for New Jersey to include, however, if this gets them both Ristolainen and Eichel it may be worth it to them.

- 2021 Fifth Round Pick from Buffalo (128th overall - 1st in fifth round); because from New Jersey’s standpoint this is a throw-in to incentivize Buffalo to make the trade and especially in getting the Sabres to give them back a pick that might include up to Boston’s second round pick (52nd pick overall), see below.

That was the boatload, now for the yacht. -- These players, I think, help to assure that this deal is a very good one from the Sabres perspective. All these elements are negotiable as is the return that the Sabres will provide if the Devils send one or more of them.

Additional players who should try to make part of the trade:
- RW Wood is someone I would not have thought about but I saw a proposed trade between these two teams that included him for Ristolainen in an article in Hockeybuzz.com by Hank Balling. I will let Hank tell you the reasons to trade for him and the downsides in doing so in https://www.hockeybuzz.co...112168&blogger_id=290. ^Wood would have to be protected in the expansion draft to give him any value in the trade. That means you’d have to expose a player like Asplund, Rasmus^. Ironically, I am not sure you would have protected Wood unless you just finished trading for him. - See update revision discussion below^.

- Prospect LD Smith is already playing for New Jersey. Per TheHockeyWriters.com, Smith is “great in transition, skates well, and has a high hockey IQ. He may only be 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, but that likely won’t be a problem for him in the pros because of his mobility and IQ. If he reaches his ceiling, he should be a top-pair defenseman for many years to come”. On top of that he seems to be a prolific scorer. He need not be expansion draft protected.

- RW Thompson - he is a top NCAA player and has a good set of offensive attributes. Seen as a middle six forward prospect. He is fairly highly touted amongst NJ’s prospects but I think what attracts me to him, like Luke Hughes, is that Tyce’s brother is the Sabres Thompson, Tage. Just another reason for Tage to get his act together. Tyce is expansion draft exempt. He played his first NHL game against Tage and the Sabres last season. From NJ’s standpoint, not a superstar so they may be willing to trade him in order to improve the return from the Sabres, maybe in lieu of giving Buffalo's fifth round pick back.

Going to New Jersey
- C Eichel - for all that Eichel is as a player, including everything mentioned herein and more, and with the hope that someday he tops it off by being a good leader, he IS the trade value for the Devils. On top of his pure hockey skill, I am guessing that Lindy Ruff, who was the former Sabre coach and alumni and who is now the Devil’s coach, may have gotten to know Eichel before he went to New Jersey. They may already have a relationship. Eichel would have to be protected in the expansion draft. As for Buffalo. Eichel wants out and the Sabres want him out.

- RD Ristolainen; not really sure what New Jersey sees in him though I think he is better than his analytics especially if you take away top minutes from him, and put him on a better defensive team. Further, he strikes me as a leader together with being maybe one of the strongest, toughest guys in the NHL who is clearly a strong offensive threat and a hard hitter. I guess I also see more in him than many analysts do. Whatever NJ sees in him, they now get him. He would have to be protected in the expansion draft. Risto likely wants out and the Sabres are willing to get him out of Buffalo to effectuate this trade.

- RD Pilut is a Sabres throw-in. He is a guy who no longer wants to play for Buffalo and was willing to go to the KHL to get away from them. The Sabres still have his RFA rights. Because he is a good defenseman who is playing well in the KHL, Pilut would bring that extra value to the deal for NJ who would try to sign him this year and would definitely get to sign him next year. I do not think he needs expansion draft protection. Buffalo gets something for nothing.

- Montreal’s Fifth Round pick in the 2021 draft.^ Already discussed, the idea is to give something to the Devils to make them comfortable about what they are giving up. Getting four pieces back instead of two is more saleable to their fans though getting Jack alone should sell a few tickets, no insult to Hughes. This is the minimum the Devils could receive. If they are willing to give up one or more of the yacht players then their compensation goes up to a max of Boston’s second round pick in the 2021 draft that is held by Buffalo. The Sabres have three picks between those two to haggle with. Greedily, I would love it to use the Boston pick in this deal. Not only that Buffalo would be getting more back in the transaction, but that by doing so, it would also be enjoyable to get back at Boston for stealing Taylor Hall at the trade deadline. In your face Bruins.

Updated revision to original draft: You may have noticed what I wrote about Sabres trying to convince Seattle to take Okposo. Well I heard on WGR 550 that Seattle is talking to the Sabres about acquiring Okposo. Though I am guessing that the switch of First round picks was not actually discussed by the teams, in my fantasy world this news means that my proposed deal with Seattle becomes reality. That means that Seattle gets Buffalo’s 2021-#1 pick, Montreal’s 5th and Okposo. Buffalo gets Seattle’s 2022 1st Round pick, with NO protections, and their 2021-4th. The Sabres are protected from any further loss from the expansion draft. Please note that where you see (^) indicated in the original draft that it represents that those considerations for expansion draft for Buffalo are no longer relevant with Okposo’s trade.

However it also means that Buffalo needs to modify their NJ transaction. Okposo’s departure leaves a hole on RW of the fourth line. NJ RW Wood now becomes a necessity for the Sabres since the Sabres are bereft of an NHL ready right winger. Their only RW prospect is Jack Quinn who is not really designed for a third/fourth line role. Wood, per Balling’s description, fits in beautifully in his all around play together with his toughness and a bit of a scoring touch. Plus without Okposo’s salary they may need Wood’s salary to get to the salary cap minimum.

Since Wood is now a need, Buffalo throws in Boston’s 2021 second though if I were the Sabres I would still try to get Thompson in this deal. For purposes of summary, we’ll assume the Sabres only get Wood. The transaction ends up being to Buffalo: Hughes, Blackwood, Severson, Wood, Foote, NJ’s 2021-1st and a return of Buffalo’s-5th and NJ’s 2022-1st; to New Jersey: Eichel, Ristolainen, Pilut and Boston’s 2021-2nd.

In the end:
Sometimes I want to talk about every aspect of a topic. This article was so long that I decided to forgo some. First, I thought that just throwing out names of players didn’t mean much if you couldn’t see how they might look in Sabres lineup. My first draft included the 2021-22 offensive and defensive lines as I saw them for Buffalo, both pre-Okposo trade and post. I could only do that after making several assumptions that allowed you to know who was available to include in next year’s lines, such as assuming Reinhart staying on the team. I was also going to discuss in some detail a draft strategy I had for Buffalo’s 2021-1st if the Seattle trade did not happen and who they might get from the NJ 2021-1st. Now I only suggest who I would pick with NJ’s pick. These transactions also have important salary cap implications for the Sabres. I was going to talk about how close to the minimum salary cap they were when the NJ transactions were done even when including an estimated $26M to sign 7 Buffalo RFA’s to new contracts: Reinhart, Mittelstadt (Casey), Asplund, Dahlin (Rasmus), Jokiharju (Henri), and Borgen (William) along with one UFA, Ullmark. Now I merely mention the issue.

I hope that overall the proposed trades make some sense, even though highly unlikely to ever happen. That is why this is fantasy. It’s just fun to play general manager for a day. Let me know what you think about my proposed exchange(s). How would you change it/them? Are the elements to the trade(s) logical? What about the basic rationale for any trade, what do you think? Good day.
Filed Under:   Trade   Eichel   Buffalo Sabres   Last Minute  
July 19, 2021 1:05 PM ET | Delete
I hope you're joking. The Devs give up 10 pieces for Eichel,Ristolainen and the rights to Pilut? Cmon man. At least make it somewhat realistic.
July 19, 2021 1:35 PM ET | Delete
AGREED!
July 21, 2021 9:45 AM ET | Delete
I wouldn't trade Hughes for Eichel straight up. you're a clown, who let you write on here??? lol
July 21, 2021 11:49 PM ET | Delete
Appreciate the well written/well thought out article but in my opinion I believe if any team is truly interested it would be the Ducks and think they are right in on him~
July 22, 2021 8:52 AM ET | Delete
Very well thought out, but this is a pipe dream to say it mildly.
July 22, 2021 9:42 AM ET | Delete
Eichel and Risto for Hughes and a first
July 22, 2021 9:44 AM ET | Delete
That first can be at Devils choosing or a 2nd round next year. Also Devils could flip Risto real quick if they don't want him making this deal a tad more palatable.
July 22, 2021 2:09 PM ET | Delete
Soupcan is much more realistic. Nobody is giving that up for Eichel. We don't even know if he is playing this year, and if so, can he regain the form he left at? You don't sell half your future for a highly paid question mark.
July 23, 2021 5:28 PM ET | Delete
This is a joke right? Worst proposal I have seen yet.
July 24, 2021 10:14 AM ET | Delete
This is the most ridiculous trade proposal EVER. EICHEL MAY NEVER PLAY AGAIN
July 25, 2021 5:14 AM ET | Delete
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July 25, 2021 10:32 PM ET | Delete
LOL
July 27, 2021 6:09 PM ET | Delete
Too long, didn't read
August 3, 2021 2:25 PM ET | Delete
You want a trade partner who will pay a "yacht load" for Eichel AND take 100% of the medical risk?
August 3, 2021 2:25 PM ET | Delete
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August 26, 2021 7:16 AM ET | Delete
lol, this was awful, OMG
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October 10, 2021 8:49 AM ET | Delete
How do you give up a 2021 draft pick after the draft lol? This seems like new jersey is getting rinsed hard.
October 12, 2021 11:05 AM ET | Delete
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November 25, 2021 5:49 AM ET | Delete
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