We don't yet know if the Sabres are going to make the perilous decision to move on from captain Jack Eichel, but now we have some idea of what kind of package it will take to pry him out of Buffalo.
TVA NHL reporter Renaud Lavoie joined Sportsnet's "Writers Bloc" on Monday, telling hosts Jeff Blair and Stephen Brunt that the decision to move or keep Eichel is one that reaches far beyond the scope of the general manager.
"They're not sure exactly what they're going to do — are they going to trade him or not — because this is not only a GM decision, the owner is going to make the final decision and Jack is really close to ownership, so that is part of the equation."
Alas, there's always a "yes" price-point for even the most coveted assets, and from what Lavoie has reportedly heard from his sources around the league, that price is either fairly significant, not very much at all, or both — depending how you slice it up.
"But what I've been told is this: If they trade him, what they really want is four pieces that are first-round picks, or players that are playing if not in the NHL or elsewhere in the NCAA that are first-round picks that are having success. ... They want young players, maybe some playing in the NHL right now, that were first-round picks but if they're not in the NHL they need to be
"It's going to be a game-breaker for them, they need to change a lot of things," Lavoie added.
With Lavoie dropping the term "first-round picks" about 600 times in this two-minute clip, I'm starting to get the impression that the Sabres really want some first-round picks — four of them, even! It's a desired return that somehow seems like way too much but also not close to enough, all at the same time.
That is the depressing situation the Sabres find themselves in right now.
With the way it's going down the tube so quickly between both parties and how public Eichel's disdain of his and his team's situation has gotten — through his own words, various media reports, and the often trustworthy "where there's smoke there's usually fire" philosophy — the Sabres are absolutely going to lose a large chunk of leverage if and when every club gets wind that Eichel officially wants out.
And with Eichel's no-movement clause set to kick in after next season, the Sabres have just over a year before they're completely strapped and Eichel has complete and utter say over where he ends up, regardless of the return.
So on one hand, with the team's leverage and position of power waning by the day, getting four first-round picks or the equivalent as the package for Eichel seems like a very good return — and it likely is, depending on exactly which players or assets they turn out to be.
But on the other hand: no. Not even first-rounders is enough for arguably a top-three player in the world when he's on. A generational, elite, all-world centerman. A second overall pick who would've went No. 1 in almost any year. A guy who ownership loves and who loves ownership back. Someone who truly wants to stay in Buffalo long-term so long as the franchise doesn't keep plummeting as it has.
There's absolutely no reason this team should be in this situation. Strongly considering the possibility of having to trade your captain for some prospects and picks that may or may not turn out to be half the player that Eichel has already proven to be — with an absurdly inexperienced general manager at the helm, no less — is not exactly shrewd asset management in any sense of the word.
Though it now may be necessary to move a franchise player in order to try and spark another rebuild after the deep crater management and ownership has driven this team into. But it's absolutely mind-boggling.
Then again, when you remember we are talking about the Pegula-led Sabres here, it really isn't.
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