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From the one-yard line into the end zone.
The Vegas Golden Knights completed a trade Thursday for disgruntled superstar Jack Eichel. In exchange, the Buffalo Sabres will receive Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs, a first-round draft pick and an additional second-round draft selection.
Most importantly, Eichel is now free to have his preferred surgery to repair his injured neck.
It was, of course, the nasty disagreement over the procedure required to mend his injury that fractured the relationship between Eichel and the organization he once captained.
As part of the agreement, Vegas will allow Eichel to have the disk replacement surgery, which is expected to require a four-month timeline for return.
The expectation is Eichel will have disc replacement surgery very soon. Recovery time varies. Everyone hopeful he will be back on the ice in 4 months. https://t.co/PzLx7H0jpC
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) November 4, 2021
Interestingly enough, it is that recovery period, and the unexpected spot the normally-front running Golden Knights find themselves in, which had brass uniquely positioned to make this deal.
The rush of injuries Vegas is currently dealing with has both altered the expectations for this season, while also temporarily carving out a large segment of available cap space to house an eight-figure contract like the one Eichel signed back in 2017.
Able to make the money work inside this window, Vegas will have the opportunity to move Eichel to long-term injured reserve before gradually welcoming injured players back to the active roster.
If Vegas can make the postseason, then the opportunity could be there to bolster the roster with one of the NHL's top centres and the exact player the Golden Knights have been without since their inception.
At worst, Vegas misses the postseason despite the high expectations and comes back next season with another superstar added to the mix. Even in a lost season, it seems the Golden Knights would still have continued building toward a championship by acquiring Eichel.
From the Buffalo standpoint, general manager Kevyn Adams checked off three boxes. Tuch is an established NHL player with upside, multiple seasons of control, and can help immediately. Krebs is a solid prospect who should spend many seasons in the Buffalo middle-six. The first-round selection was a necessity, of course, and adds to the organization's impressive draft capital, which includes three first-rounders and nine total draft selections in 2022 alone.
Despite that, there could be some disappointment within the fanbase after Matthew Tkachuk's name was bandied about this week in a potential deal with the Calgary Flames. But the Sabres did well enough with the little leverage they had. There were reports this week that there was external pressure on the Sabres to complete a deal.
For all asking, my understanding is the @NHLFlames have Tkachuk ( who is a future potential captain) an upcoming 1 Rd pick, a former 1st Rd pick, and 2 prospects in the Eichel sweepstakes with the @BuffaloSabres . @espn @NHLNetwork #HockeyTwitter .
— Kevin Weekes (@KevinWeekes) November 3, 2021
Calgary's role will continue to be debated. It seemed farfetched to believe that management would upset the organization's strong start by trading one of, if not the face of the franchise in order to stash Eichel for four months. As a division rival, it is exceedingly possible the Flames' role was simply to drive up the price, and Tkachuk's name being thrown out in the public space would support that theory.
In Vegas, Eichel adds to the extraordinary level of talent the Golden Knights have been able to procure in only five seasons of operation. Eichel is a third legitimate superstar added through trade or free agency, joining Mark Stone and Alex Pietrangelo as Olympic-level talents to choose Vegas.
But while they have knocked on the door several times in the postseason, the Golden Knights have clearly been without one important element, which is a front-line, dominant scoring centre with 100-plus-point potential.
If Eichel's preferred surgery goes as expected, and he can return to the form that saw him score 36 goals in 68 games back in 2019-20, he could be that completive piece to the Vegas puzzle.
And for Eichel, who hasn't had the freedom to make the best life decision, and has had his career hijacked to a certain extent, the end result couldn't have worked out better.
He's the big winner here.
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