The Golden Knights’ shortcomings in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs were quite clear. They had a major lack of depth at the center position and overall in their forward group.
Vegas has always gone big fish hunting in the offseason — signing Alex Pietrangelo last offseason and the acquisition of Max Pacioretty following Year 1. It would not be out of the question for the Golden Knights front office to do that once again and go after one of the biggest names on the market.
This year it happens to be Jack Eichel, the seemingly disgruntled Buffalo Sabres captain who could be on the move this summer.
Eichel has a major cap hit of $10 million and the Golden Knights only have around $6 million in cap space heading into the offseason. That is simple math, and it tells you that the Golden Knights would have to make quite the change to the lineup to be able to get cap compliant.
A reminder that teams can go 10 percent above the cap during the offseason. In a way, the Golden Knights could look to re-sign Alec Martinez and make a move for Eichel with sending some money back.
The Golden Knights are reportedly “sniffing around” on a potential Eichel deal, according to Elliotte Friedman. Much like the sky is blue and grass is green, the Golden Knights want in on the superstar players.
With that in mind, the Golden Knights would likely see one of the high-dollar members of the current top-six forward group depart. A few options could be Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault or even Pacioretty. However, the question must be asked — Would Eichel be a big enough difference maker?
On the ice, yes.
But are the highlights enough to justify all of the cons that Eichel would bring?
Eichel would be the elite center that the Golden Knights are in desperate need of, but is he really? He is currently looking at a surgery that has never been done on a hockey player before to repair a herniated disk and his health has been a question over his career as he has not played a full season since his rookie season in 2015-16.
The likely unhealthy Eichel only scored twice last season and was not very effective in his 21-game campaign. His career numbers show that he is an excellent goal scorer and playmaker, he averaged 1.03 points per game from 2016-17 to 2019-20. If the procedure is successful, one would assume the 24-year-old would be able to return to his excellent form.
Another thing to consider is the Buffalo’s asking price. It is rumored to be extremely high and would consist of first round picks and immediate contributors, not to mention the likelihood that a prospect like Peyton Krebs would be at least asked about by Buffalo GM Kevyn Adams.
The Golden Knights also have internal players that are UFAs that would be major losses to the roster. They want to bring back Martinez return, and there’s also a question with Tomas Nosek and Mattias Janmark, though the latter two aren’t dire needs.
I would personally shy away from adding the major cap hit that comes with Jack Eichel. The injury concerns and likely complete shake up of the Golden Knights roster would be too much for my liking.
The Golden Knights need to beef up their forward core, but I am not sure if that is the correct way to do it. They would be sacrificing the future and be going all in on now in a way that I do not believe is healthy. We all saw what Nick Suzuki did in the playoffs, and I fear letting Krebs go would be more of the same.
There is a lot for the Golden Knights to consider this offseason, and there are ways for them to make the necessary changes to get over the hump in 2021-22.
There are plenty of good centremen on the market, one being Blake Coleman who has been excellent for the Tampa Bay Lightning in their Stanley Cup runs. Him or someone similar, would be much cheaper and would allow the Golden Knights to keep much of their roster in-tact.
Kelly McCrimmon and Co. will be extremely busy in the coming weeks, as we are only two weeks from the entry draft, the start of free agency, and the entry of the Seattle Kraken.