The moment Sabres and hockey fans have been either waiting for and/or dreading, has finally arrived. Late Wednesday night, Buffalo traded former No. 2 overall pick and former captain Jack Eichel and a third-round pick to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for forward Alex Tuch, forward prospect Peyton Krebs, a first-round pick (Top 10 Lottery Protected) in the 2022 NHL Draft and a second-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft.
The move comes as no surprise for Sabres fans, as the standoff between Eichel and Sabres management continued over Eichel’s medical issues. Eichel wants an artificial disk replacement, while the team’s owners, Terry and Kim Pegula, preferred that instead, he have a fusion surgery. Eichel refused and that led to where we are today. In a press conference on Thursday, GM Kevyn Adams stated that there was “no timetable” to trade Eichel, and that when the time was right, they would finally make the deal. Certainly, this lasted longer than anyone expected and did not go the way that Buffalo fans thought it would end.
Now, Eichel gets to go get his preferred disk replacement surgery, which would sideline him anywhere from 3-5 months. Six weeks after the surgery, he can start skating and then slowly make his way back to contact and game ready shape. Vegas has long been a team interested in Eichel, as well as other teams to be fair, but a big issue surrounding a Jack Eichel trade aside from the medical issue, was Eichel’s salary. Eichel has five years remaining on his contract at $10 million per season. Teams were calling GM Kevyn Adams, and before they even talked about trade options, they wanted to know if Buffalo would retain any of Eichel’s salary. The answer has always been a firm “no” from the Sabres management and that turned a lot of teams away in any potential negotiations. Could Buffalo have received more in a return for Eichel if they had retained some of the salary? Probably yes. But, the Pegula’s were not going to pay Jack Eichel to play against them, even if it is only a couple times a year.
Heading to Buffalo in exchange is Syracuse native Alex Tuch. Tuch carries a $4.75 million cap hit and is signed through the 2025-26 season. In 55 games last season, Tuch amassed 33 points, tallying 18 goals, while adding 15 assists. He’s racked up 33 points across 66 playoff games. It will be about a month or two before Tuch will be able to play for the Sabres, as he is recovering from shoulder surgery, which he underwent in the offseason. When he returns, he will play a big role for Buffalo, and he is a six-foot-four, 225 pound forward, who can score goals and play the physical game as well. When Tuch spoke with Kevyn Adams, he said it was “a dream come true” and that he couldn’t wait to get started playing for a team he grew up cheering for.
The main piece that the Sabres wanted in return for Jack Eichel was an A-level top prospect and that’s exactly what they got in Peyton Krebs. Krebs was Vegas’ top prospect and any deal involving Eichel was going to include him. Krebs, 20-years-old, played nine games for the Golden Knights this year and five games with their AHL affiliate, the Henderson Silver Knights, where in two games, he recorded five assists. Krebs possesses a unique skillset of speed and talent Buffalo targeted and could very well be a top line player for the Sabres in the near future. For now, Krebs will go to the Rochester Americans, and will most likely play alongside 2020 first-rounder Jack Quinn, who is leading the Americans in scoring with six goals and 12 points in seven games. He’ll also join a former 2020 second-round pick in J.J. Peterka, who has tallied eight points in seven games with the hockey club. Krebs already has some connections to Buffalo, playing with Dylan Cozens at the IIHF World Juniors and earning a silver medal.
The first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft the team acquired is top 10 protected, which means that if the Vegas Golden Knights select anywhere from 1-10 in the upcoming Entry Draft, that first-round pick would be moved to 2023, which would then be unprotected. The Sabres also acquired a second-round pick in the 2023 Draft, while sending a third-round pick in 2023 back in exchange to the Golden Knights.
I, as well as many other people, found it hard to believe that Jack Eichel would be traded in the way that he was and under these circumstances. Certainly, Eichel did not see it that way either. When asked by ESPN’s John Buccigross for his initial reaction surrounding the overdue deal, Eichel said he’s excited to join Vegas and have a chance to win and play in front of a great fanbase. Eichel also stated that he expressed his frustration and concerns with Sabres GM Kevyn Adams about the direction the franchise was headed, which to Eichel, appeared to be that of another rebuild. That’s when he suffered the injury that has sidelined him ever since. The relation deteriorated from there, with the Sabres refusing to let him get his surgery of choice.
When asked about what Buffalo meant to him, Eichel took a second to collect his thoughts and said, “I really wish that we had won more for the fans, they deserve it.” He also said that the city will always hold a special place in his heart and that he will always love Buffalo.
Now that Eichel has been shipped out, the Sabres can finally look towards the future, and do so with a glimpse of both optimism and hope. With a young core of Cozens, Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power, Peterka, Krebs, Quinn, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, and nine selections in the upcoming draft, the future seems bright for Buffalo and will have the cap space and the flexibility to bring this team back to the playoffs, and hopefully one day, win a Stanley Cup.