Trading a franchise player will never have perfect results
As rumors fly around about a potential trade with the Buffalo Sabres and Jack Eichel, we’ve seen a little bit of everything. Which teams should the Sabres consider trading with? Which teams are interested? And of course, the big questions – what are the Sabres looking for in return, and what would be enough of a return to make this trade worthwhile?
For a while there, it seemed like every hour on Twitter there was a new trade proposal. Send Eichel to the Ducks, so long as Trevor Zegras is part of the package. Or to Minnesota, if they’d somehow be willing to part with Kirill Kaprizov. Perhaps to the New York Rangers, or the Chicago Blackhawks… or… or… or.
The more I read, the more I realized: there is no ideal trade target or trade package for Jack Eichel – because the ideal is not trading a franchise player in the first place. While this is no doubt not exactly a groundbreaking thought, it’s one that became clearer to me and one I just felt that I had to point out.
It’s not like franchise players haven’t been traded before. If Wayne Gretzky can get traded, so can Jack Eichel. (Just look how that deal turned out for the Oilers…. spoiler alert: it wasn’t great!)
Anything can happen, but at this point, the scales certainly seem tipped in the direction of the Sabres trading Eichel at some point in the coming months. No matter what deal GM Kevyn Adams and his staff execute for Eichel, it can never possibly please everyone. Adams & his team will have to decide what the Sabres’ game plan is, and what their focus is, and make decisions based on that.
If they’re able to acquire some key pieces that the team can use immediately, perhaps the team could turn things around quickly in the next few years – or there could be little to no improvement in such a short span of time, and then the player(s) will end up being either traded away again or sign elsewhere in free agency.
If they focus on the future and work on a package involving mainly top picks and high-end prospects, that will do little to appeal the fans’ desire for winning in the short-term; once again, we’ll be in a rebuilding pattern. Looking down the line, there’s also never any guarantee about picks or prospects, which again could see the Sabres end up with very little worthwhile in the long run.
Any Sabres trade involving Jack Eichel could be a win for the team in the short-term, or a loss. It could be a win in the long-term, or a loss. There’s no perfect mathematical formula for a successful trade in this situation for Buffalo. And what of the alternative: not trading Eichel, and perhaps agreeing to the surgery? That undoubtedly also comes with its own risks.
There’s no perfect answer here – and thankfully, I’m not getting paid the big bucks as GM so it’s not a decision that I actually ever have to worry about making. It’s clear to me that no matter what the Sabres do, there’s risk involved, and regardless, someone will probably always be unhappy with the decision. (Isn’t that true about life in general, though?)
At any rate, something will need to happen relatively soon. It’s already a few days into July, and although the 2021-22 NHL season seems far away, mid-October will be here in the blink of an eye. What would you be happy with?