An argument for the LA Kings to go all-in on superstar center Jack Eichel and the prospects they can use to acquire him.
The LA Kings figure to be one of the more active teams this summer as far as player transactions go. They were long rumored to be searching for help up front, which came to fruition not long ago with their acquisition of Viktor Arvidsson from the Nashville Predators. Grabbing Arvidsson will help alleviate the lack of scoring that was noticeable on the wings of LA’s forward group. Still, it’s only the beginning of a bevy of moves to be made by General Manager Rob Blake.
The 2021 off-season for the NHL promises to be a quick sprint full of excitement. And it’s no secret that the biggest name on the trade block is Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel. Here I present my case as to why the Kings should go all-in on acquiring the 24-year-old center and answer questions on the risks involved.
Jack Eichel, the Player
Eichel, at only 24-years-old, is a top ten center in the NHL. There should be no debating that. Since entering the league in 2015, he is tied for tenth in Pts/G out of all centers with 0.95, all that while playing for the league’s worst team in P% during that timeframe.
“Well, a good player should elevate a bad team,” you might say. While that may be true, I would argue that Sabres management has not surrounded Jack with the right players in order for the team to be successful. Just look at the stats with Eichel on-the-ice compared to off-the-ice the last two seasons.
Sabres w/ Jack Eichel on the ice at 5v5:
51.6% GF%(would rank 15th among NHL teams)
Sabres w/o Jack Eichel on the ice at 5v5:
42.0% GF% (would rank 30th among NHL teams)
The Neck Injury
One of the main objections I hear from Kings fans on the thought of acquiring Eichel is his lingering neck injury. While that may be warranted, I don’t find it obtuse to think the team seriously interested in the superstar center won’t do their due diligence investigating the long-term effects of the injury.
Unfortunately, a herniated disc, the injury Jack is currently suffering from, is a somewhat common occurrence in athletes. SB Nation’s ‘Die By the Blade’ does an excellent job explaining the injury situation. They illustrate that while there are multiple avenues for athletes to alleviate this injury, the most likely one is an anterior cervical discectomy with fusion. And although the recovery from the surgery does take some time, the overall outcomes are overwhelmingly positive.
These outcomes are overall very positive, with 80 percent of players that have this procedure return to play with no discernible change in the quality of play. Most return to play within 9 months, though this was between a variety of professional sports. Hockey players can return sooner, with research indicating that a player in the study returned in 6.7 months, though there is not widespread research regarding the normative values to return in hockey specifically. General rehab protocols allow return to sport at 6+ months, but that timeline could vary based on the doctor and recovery process. – Kyle Trimble/Die By The Blade
It is interesting to note the disconnect between Jack and Buffalo management. Jack has made it known he is willing to try a new type of surgery that has never been performed on a hockey player before, but the medical staff in Buffalo seems unwilling to let him go down that path. So whichever team decides to pick up the young center, we shall see if he gets his wish.
Update: It’s been reported by Elliotte Friedman on the DFO Rundown podcast that Eichel has begun skating already. Not sure if surgery was required for his injury or not.
The rumor is, the Sabres are looking for the equivalent of four first-round picks for Jack Eichel, but I don’t believe they’ll get anything close to that type of return. I mean, just take a look at what they got for Ryan O’Reilly.
All joking aside, the cost to acquire Jack won’t be cheap, and whatever the cost may be, the Kings can afford it.
Now Quinton Byfield is obviously off-limits. The potential of the number two overall pick from the 2020 draft for LA is sky high, and you don’t give that up in trade just one year removed from his selection. I would also include Arthur Kaliyev in the discussion of untouchables. Arty is the perennial goal-scoring talent that LA has never had before and would fit in with Quinton. Even without those two players to package in any deal, General Manager Rob Blake still has plenty of prospects to entice Buffalo.
Possible package – Gabe Vilardi, Alex Turcotte, Rasmus Kupari, 8th overall pick in 2021
Even while giving up high-end prospects like Vilardi, Turcotte, and Kupari, that still leaves LA with players like Akil Thomas, Samuel Fagemo, and Tyler Madden in the fold. Not to mention unsigned prospects Kasper Simontaival, Martin Chromiak, and Alex Laferriere.
Kempe – Kopitar – Brown
Iafallo – Eichel – Arvidsson
Moore – Byfield – Kaliyev
Tkachev – Anderson-Dolan – Andersson
Anderson – Doughty
Bjornfot – Roy
Maatta – Walker
Scratches – Wagner, Lizotte, Wolanin
Sign me up for that!