Jack Eichel trade draws near; is it a move the Rangers should make?

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Jan 28, 2021; Buffalo, New York, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (9) warms up before a game against the New York Rangers at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

This Thursday, the NHL Roster Freeze will be lifted. It is expected that Jack Eichel will be traded no later than Friday night at the Entry Draft. Is it a move the Rangers should make?

The Eichel trade rumors have been constantly changing since last offseason. Forever Blueshirts has been monitoring this situation closely. We know that the Rangers made an offer last season and several other teams, such as the Los Angeles Kings and the Columbus Blue Jackets were interested. It’s all been chronicled here.

Forever Blueshirts also noted the Rangers interest cooling in May. That was followed by teams like the Kings and Blue Jackets dropping out of the running. More recently, reports indicate the ask from the Sabres has dropped but there’s been some conflicting information as to what that means.

Eichel’s skill, injury, and cap hit of $10 million per season presents many factors for teams to consider. It’s no different for the Rangers. Before possibly making another offer for Eichel, Chris Drury will have to seriously examine all of his options.

The Rangers’ situation at center

On some teams, Ryan Strome would not be considered for the second line center spot, but on the Rangers he is. This has several fans screaming for an Eichel trade. Eichel and Mika Zibanejad as the top two centers and Strome as a strong third line center sounds good, right? Sure, but that’s an overly simplified view of the situation.

Last season, the Rangers generally lined up down the middle with Zibanejad, Strome, Filip Chytil (when he wasn’t injured), and Kevin Rooney or Brett Howden. In order to add Eichel, management would have to clear out roster space, as well as some cap space for the final four years of Eichel’s deal.

The clearing of roster space began when Brett Howden was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday. Expect more moves like that to come, including uncertain futures for Strome, Chytil and Pavel Buchnevich.

Assuming they’re able to sign Goodrow, that would leave them with Zibanejad, Strome, Chytil, and Goodrow down the middle. The organization chose to protect Rooney in the Seattle expansion. That’s a pretty good indication that they feel he belongs with the team.

Rooney was a solid fourth line center last season and helped the U.S. win bronze at the World Championships. He, and Goodrow are very likely to play key roles for the Rangers bottom six.

So what if the Rangers try to trade for Eichel? Chytil could be part of the package. That would certainly solve the logjam at center. He made strides early last season but experienced a setback when he was injured against the Penguins. Eichel, Zibanejad, Strome, Goodrow is a much deeper lineup at center, but is it realistic cap wise?

That’s likely why we are hearing Ryan Strome’s name coming up in the rumor mill. If the Rangers believe Goodrow can become a third line center, the middle could look like Eichel, Zibanejad, Goodrow, and Rooney.

How much does Goodrow change anything if at all?

Barclay Goodrow is definitely a solid, gritty fourth line center who could possibly play some third line minutes too. He was an unlikely playoff hero for the Sharks in 2019. As Jon Cooper put it, “You can’t have all Ferraris.” Eichel would be just another finesse player.

Adding Goodrow and sending Howden to Vegas suddenly makes the fourth line a lot stronger. Goodrow doesn’t shy away from the dirty areas of the game. He epitomizes what it means to be an effective fourth line center.

Eichel’s cap hit would cause problems for the Rangers. At $10,000,000 AAV for Eichel, the Rangers wouldn’t be left with much space to work with. They still have to sign Barclay Goodrow, but he will undoubtedly be much cheaper and affordable for the Rangers. Latest reports indicate a 6 year deal with an AAV of $3,600,000.

Once signed, they’ve gained a center that gives the team more depth at the position. They do so without risking spending too much on a player who may not even be the same due to his neck injury.

Does the acquisition of Goodrow lessen the probability of trading for Eichel? It’s unlikely.

Eichel’s neck issue is a reason not to trade for him

jack eichel trade
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Eichel obviously possesses super star status and belongs on the top line of any team. However, there are some questions about the implications of his neck injury. Multiple reports note that Eichel and the Sabres were working towards a resolution. Eichel was reportedly interested in a surgical option that there were questions about, the Sabres are against it so it is likely his next team will deal with it.

This issue, whether Eichel undergoes surgery or not, presents uncertainty. He may not be the same player no matter what treatment option he accepts. It’s too much of a risk to pay $10,000,000 annually for a player in his situation. Especially when there are other options. This is somewhat hypothetical, but still important to acknowledge.

If the Rangers want to put themselves in the best position to win, they need to decide what risks are acceptable. Trading for Eichel could backfire. Trading for Goodrow was a less risky move, and has already improved the team.

What would the Rangers have to give up for Eichel?

If the Rangers do decide to make another offer for Eichel (if they haven’t already), Buffalo could use a goaltender. The Rangers initially signed Keith Kinkaid so they’d have a goaltender to expose in the expansion draft, but he actually played well for them. He isn’t expected to be taken, so the Rangers could put Alex Georgiev in the package. If the Rangers were to acquire Eichel and have Goodrow, Chytil could wind up on the outside of things, so it makes sense to include him in the package as well.

Plus, reports have surfaced that the Rangers are shopping Buchnevich. Buffalo would likely be open to acquiring him. They could use a younger right wing who has shown improvement recently. Finally, the Rangers could throw in the 15th overall pick.

To trade or not to trade for Eichel

There are always unknowns when bringing in players. New environments, team cultures, and teammates present factors for players to adjust to. Goodrow will be facing these things with the Rangers. However, this unknown is less of a concern than Eichel’s injury.

Eichel’s neck issue is more likely to affect his play than Goodrow’s adjusting to a new team. Drury will have to do due diligence and decide if it’s worth giving up some familiar and valuable players like Georgiev and Buchnevich for a player whose game might be at least partially inhibited. When examining the available information, it ultimately seems that it’s not necessary to trade for Jack Eichel now that they have Goodrow.

Then again, bold moves win Stanley Cups and nothing would be bolder than trading for Eichel.

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