New Jersey Devils Should Never Target Jack Eichel

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (9) and New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier (13): (Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports)
Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (9) and New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier (13): (Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports) /

When Jack Eichel was drafted number-two overall behind Connor McDavid back in 2015. The Buffalo Sabres thought they turned the corner in their seemingly never-ending rebuild. They had a young core of players entering the 2015-16 season that consisted of Eichel, Ryan O’Reilly, Evander Kane, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Sam Reinhart. Robin Lehner was brought over from Ottawa where he showed flashes of being solid in the net. Alongside him in goal would be the underrated veteran Chad Johnson. New coach Dan Bylsma had come over with a winning pedigree from his time in Pittsburgh, hoping to have the same success with Eichel and O’Reilly down the middle as he had with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh.

That didn’t work out, did it? Flash forward to present day, O’Reilly is a Conn Smythe winner for the St. Louis Blues, Lehner is a perennial Vezina candidate for the Vegas Golden Knights, and Kane is a solid scorer for the San Jose Sharks. Ristolainen isn’t the top 10 defenseman in the league as he was once thought he could be. The verdict is still out on Reinhart. Bylsma was fired and replaced by Phil Housely who was replaced by Ralph Kruger who will be replaced very shortly.

That just leaves one man. Eichel. The cornerstone of the franchise. The captain making $10 million annually and every penny is worth it. He is everything the Sabres thought he would be. He should be untouchable.

But nothing makes sense in Buffalo.

Jack Eichel is now the subject of rampant trade rumors this season. Where there is smoke, there is usually fire. Buffalo would probably want a king’s ransom for Eichel. They didn’t anticipate the scrutiny they would be facing this season. They signed former MVP Taylor Hall and were thought to at least be outside contenders. Hall has not scored a goal since the season opener and will likely get traded seeing he is on a one-year deal.

Eichel is currently in year three of an eight-year deal that carries him to 2025-26. Eichel does have a no-movement clause, but that doesn’t kick in until 2022-23. So the Sabres in their best interest may want to deal him now before that clause kicks in. Then again, they should want to keep Eichel forever. If they were to actually pull the trigger on a blockbuster move that would send Eichel anywhere, could the New Jersey Devils be a suitor? The answer should be “absolutely not”.

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Why wouldn’t the Devils want to get Eichel? Having a center core of Eichel, Nico Hischier, and Jack Hughes would be an absolute monster of a team that should make the playoffs every year until the end of time. The problem is, the Devils would have to give up one of those two to get Eichel. They just named Hischier captain, so it probably wouldn’t be him. Then again, he makes money closer to Eichel than Hughes does, who is still on his entry-level contract. Hughes however, could be the more intriguing option based on age and the Sabres could sign him to a deal cheaper than Eichel’s current one. The bottom line is, the Devils should not want to give up Hischier or Hughes.

The only possible and conceivable way the Devils would not have to give up either of their number-one overall draft picks, would be to take on Jeff Skinner. Isn’t Skinner someone that can score consistently when not playing on the fourth line and being a healthy scratch? Yes he is. However, Ralph Kruger doesn’t think so. Skinner is currently making $9 million. Taking that contract off Buffalo’s books could sway the Sabres into softening the price off Hischier or Hughes. That would mean the Devils would take on two players and $19 million. That is not happening at all.

Unless the Sabres took P.K. Subban‘s $9 million average contact, that is just too much money to take on even when the world isn’t in a global pandemic. However, Subban’s deal expires at the end of next season, while Skinner’s ends in 2026-27. Buffalo could then beg the Seattle Kraken to take P.K. and his contract with a draft pick, something they will have plenty of because the Devils would have to give them a lot. Without giving up Hischier or Hughes, the Devils would have to double up on the prospects and picks. With one of the two, the deal would probably be Hischier/Hughes, two mid-tier prospects, and a few draft picks. Without, you’re looking at multiple 1st-round picks, Alexander Holtz and Ty Smith, along with a few other prospects. It is just too much to give up for Eichel, when Hughes has the potential to be better than Eichel.

That may be a hot take, but both players are solid playmakers, fast skaters, and can dominate the possession of the puck. Why sacrifice the future of the organization when you already have the future of the organization right here? Eichel is a great player and someone any team would love to have. When you have Hischier and Hughes down the middle already, why not let someone else make the mistake of giving up their whole future for Eichel? The New York Rangers have been linked to Eichel. Let them give up Kappo Kakko, Vitali Kratsov, K’Andre Miller, and multiple 1st-round picks. Will it be tough to face a line of Alexis Lafreniere, Eichel, and Artemi Panarin? Yes, but the Devils future will be brighter and have a lot more depth.

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Tom Fitzgerald has shown a lot of promise as a general manager. He has not made a deal yet that didn’t make much sense, aside from the Wayne Simmonds trade. He learned from Ray Shero. Shero was never the guy to sacrifice multiple pieces of the future for someone the Devils didn’t need. When they needed scoring, he didn’t give up picks in the Taylor Hall deal, only Adam Larsson. When they needed defense, he gave up Adam Henrique to soften the blow of draft picks. The Devils have done a great job drafting in recent years. To make the draft picks you actually need to have the picks. Trading for Eichel would be a mistake the Devils could regret for years to come. Hopefully, Fitzgerald sticks to his young guns and trusts his staff to make the right calls.