Hopefully this is not news to anyone since the trade was made official the morning of November 4. For those that missed it, the Buffalo Sabres traded their captain, Jack Eichel, to the Vegas Golden Knights.
Of course, the online sphere has lost their minds about various things. Some take the right approach, but others are mad the Blues missed out and more feel like the Golden Knights now have a super team incapable of being defeated by anyone.
The truth of the matter is that, whether he dipped his toe in the water or never even put in a phone call, Doug Armstrong was smart to stay out of this mess. This may cause some people to want to reach through the screen, but it just would not have been worth it from the Blues perspective.
Too often, fans want to see things in a vacuum. With that in mind, it would make sense for any team to be interested in Eichel. When healthy, he puts up elite point numbers and is capable of scoring more than 30 goals (though he’s only done it once in his career).
From a potential standpoint, he brings a ton to any team. Even if he only achieved the successes he has already seen, he’s a top line player on 90% of the league.
The problem arises when you start picking holes in things. We don’t live or operate in a vacuum, so you can’t look at point production alone and say you’d be dumb not to jump in on a trade.
First, and perhaps foremost, is the injury situation Eichel has. Even though 2021 was a shortened season anyway, Eichel only played 21 points due to a neck injury.
After that, it became an internal battle between Eichel and the Sabres about how to proceed. The team wanted him to get fusion surgery, just like every other player with disc problems in the past. Eichel wanted to do something more modern, which was a surgery that would actually implant a replacement disc.
The two sides clearly never came to an agreement. Eichel failed a physical to start the year, meaning a surgery of one kind or another was going to happen.
That means that Vegas, or any team that acquired him, would not have his services for several months. The numbers of recovery weeks varies greatly depending on who you ask, but the general consensus is Eichel will not play again until after the 2022 Olympics in February.
So, you’re trading two players and two picks in this scenario and there is no guarantee Eichel will hit his stride before the playoffs. There is a very real possibility he does not even put on a game sweater at all in 2021-22.
Someone please explain why it made sense, or still makes sense, to trade away Vladimir Tarasenko because he had a shoulder injury that many have recovered from, but the Blues should acquire someone that is going to have an experimental surgery and would have cost an arm and a leg to acquire? I doubt many would attempt and those that did would look somewhat foolish.
Another thing is that fans fall in love with names. Fans everywhere do it, but Blues fans seem to be slightly worse because the Blues have had so many superstars as viewed by the rest of the league.
So, when a name like Eichel or Taylor Hall or one of the Tkachuk boys gets bandied around, the drool starts to flow. The problem is, more often than not, those big names don’t move the needle enough.
On the night prior to the actual trade, there were whispers that Armstrong might offer up Tarasenko, Robert Thomas, an elite prospect and a pick for Eichel. In what universe does that make sense?
At his best, Eichel is a wash with Tarasenko for goals. He barely gets an edge for points over Tarasenko, but he gets paid $2.5 million more per season. It would take some convincing to show me that 5-10 points extra is worth almost $3 more million.
On top of that, you’d be losing Thomas. At this point, Thomas may not turn out to be an elite-level center, but he’ll be a very serviceable second-line center.
If Eichel is barely an improvement over Tarasenko overall, you’re definitely losing points by including Thomas in the deal. Given the Blues cap issues, you would basically have to include someone like Thomas or Jordan Kyrou to make the money match up.
You’re losing out on the potential of those exciting, young players. You’re also losing out on the potential of your prospect (maybe Jake Neighbours?) and the draft pick.
The Blues would have lost all that for a player that might never play this year. While the chance is remote, you cannot say there is a 0% chance that he never suits up again.
You can protect the draft picks in that scenario, but you’ve given up on the players. They’re gone. Ah, but Eichel move the needle, so it’s worth it right?
It’s only barely worth it compared to all the people that were drooling over the Blues picking up Hall. Pay no attention to the fact he’s only had one 30-plus goal season and has really only had two high-level point producing seasons. He’s a recognized name though.
Last, but not least, as a fan of the Blues, I don’t want them in the situation the Golden Knights are in right now. As of writing this, Vegas currently has over $27 million on their long term injured reserve list.
As of right now, the team technically has around $16 million in space. That means there is no scenario where two players on their LTIR list can return at the same time.
If Eichel returns first, Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty cannot be used until a move is made to free up space. If Stone and Pacioretty got healthy first, you have to leave Eichel on LTIR until at least the playoffs because you’d lose far too many players to clear out $10 million in space.
The Blues are using LTIR just to afford guys like Neighbours and Klim Kostin. I don’t want them to need to clear out that many bodies just to afford someone who likely will never live up to being given $10 million per season.
Blues fans, take the name out of the equation. The reality is that $10 million players handcuff teams and almost none have won Cups because it’s hard to surround them with enough talent.
St. Louis was smart to stay out of that mess.