Would New Jersey Devils Be Smart To Trade Jack Hughes For Jack Eichel?

Feb 23, 2021; Newark, New Jersey, USA; New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes (86) reaches for the puck in front of Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (9) and right wing Victor Olofsson (68) during the first period at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 23, 2021; Newark, New Jersey, USA; New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes (86) reaches for the puck in front of Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (9) and right wing Victor Olofsson (68) during the first period at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /
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The New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres are hand in hand as the two worst teams in the NHL this season. Sure, the Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators are probably also in that group, but the Devils inability to beat the lowly Sabres on a regular basis puts them right in that category. The Devils lost again to the Sabres on Tuesday night. The Sabres didn’t have Taylor Hall or Jack Eichel in the lineup while the Devils were still missing Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri. Overall, it was a fun watch as far as hockey games go, but Devils miscues led to their demise.

That’s not what we’re here to talk about. Before the game, NHL Network’s Brian Lawton decided to cause a war between Devils and Sabres fans by proposing a trade that makes sense on paper, but it definitely does not make sense when looking at all of the details.

Oof. Asking the Devils trade not one but both of their recent number-one overall picks is heavy. Nico Hischier was just named captain and is probably more fans’ favorite player than anyone on the team. Jack Hughes has been lifted up as the future of the organization, and despite his struggles to score, it’s clear he is the best player on the ice and can become a superstar.

Meanwhile, the Sabres would lose their two best assets all at once. Jack Eichel has been in trade rumors for months, and he could be gone as soon as Monday’s trade deadline (although it is much more likely he’s gone in the offseason if anything). Then, there’s Rasmus Dahlin, who is having a down season but has shown some good growth in his three years in the league.

As one could guess by the ratio (539 comments, 447 quote tweets, but only 336 likes) that things did not go well among both fanbases. The Sabres thought this was a laughable offer while Devils fans showed that this puts them in the same position the Sabres are in now. The Devils timeline goes backwards with this trade, and the Sabres fans believe this isn’t enough to get both of these assets. Some thought that Hischier and Hughes isn’t enough to get Eichel by himself, but if Tom Fitzgerald actually made that offer to Kevyn Adams, he’d accept faster than Fitzgerald could get the email written.

So, let’s make a reasonable request. The Devils would trade Jack Hughes for Jack Eichel straight up. Nobody is going to offer the Sabres anyone with the upside of Hughes in a trade for Eichel. The best they can hope for is Quinton Byfield in a deal with the Kings, but nobody really knows if that is actually on the table. Meanwhile, Eichel still fits the Devils timeline, he’s locked into a contract through 2026, and he’s cost controlled, even if that cost is $10 million per season. Oh, and he’s a legit superstar.

The problem is the Devils timeline is not today. They just aren’t in a place to take advantage of Eichel’s current timeline. By the time the Devils can really take advantage of Eichel’s dominance, he’s going to be closer to 26 or 27. The Devils are literally days away from trading their best winger for more future assets. After three-straight years of selling at the deadline, the veterans on this team are few and far between.

Eichel would be coming here to play with Andreas Johnsson and Tyce Thompson. Maybe he would look ahead and hope Alexander Holtz is NHL ready next season, but the way his season ended in the SHL doesn’t exactly breed confidence. It’s a rough situation, and adding Eichel doesn’t really help.

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Hughes also has had everything go wrong in the first two years of his career. Literally, the luck couldn’t be worse. It makes no sense to sell him at what is probably the lowest possible value, however one might argue it isn’t that low if it’s getting Jack Eichel in return. Still, Hughes has talent to be one of the best centers in the league. He might be a top-five player if everything goes right. This season, he was well on his way until COVID hit and he lost a ton of weight while the rest of the team fell off the face of the Earth.

This deal makes no sense from either side (although I think it makes a lot more sense for the Sabres). Eichel doesn’t make the Devils that much better in the standings, and Hughes is only one piece when Adams is probably looking for four or more pieces to revamp this team’s roster. It’s an interesting conversation, but as this poll below shows, Devils fans are very much not on board.

The Devils are still in a weird position, and the losing needs to stop eventually, but trying to hit fast forward on the rebuild usually doesn’t work. There are too many holes to use Jack Hughes to slightly upgrade a position that isn’t even a problem.