The Calgary Flames (and Vegas Golden Knights) are reportedly very close on working out a trade with the Buffalo Sabres for franchise centerman Jack Eichel. With ESPN’s Emily Kaplan reporting last night that the trade was close (“on the one-yard line”) it once again sent Flames twitter into a frenzy about the pros and cons of acquiring the superstar forward.
Here’s the latest on Jack Eichel.
Multiple sources tell ESPN it’s down to Calgary and Vegas. Sabres GM Kevyn Adams is working hard to get it done, but neither team has met his asks yet.
Sources say both teams are OK with Eichel getting his preferred surgery. pic.twitter.com/uiJsGFeDmE
— Emily Kaplan (@emilymkaplan) November 3, 2021
Today we saw Kevin Weekes toss out a proposed package from the Flames with Matthew Tkachuk as the centrepiece onto his Twitter. There are questions around whether this is the package, or if it was craftily leaked by Buffalo to perhaps entice Vegas or other teams to get back into the hunt, but nevertheless it once again has generated intense speculation and conversations among Flames fans.
For the sake of this article, let’s operate on the sense that Tkachuk is the main NHL piece returning to Buffalo for now.
With that in mind, a trade of this magnitude would certainly have ripple effects across Calgary and the league as the NHL hasn’t seen a superstar of this magnitude traded in some time. Let’s look at some of these ripple effects.
1. The Direction of the Flames will Change
It’s not that singularly acquiring Eichel will change things, but it will be a true indication that this management group is finally pushing their chips all-in. If this blows up in their faces, they will lose their jobs, there is really now way around it. If it works out, they could be here another decade. This season had looked to be the unspoken last year for this core with guys like Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, and Andrew Mangiapane all in line for raises after this year. Instead by acquiring Eichel, Calgary would really extend their competitive window and signal a shift more towards longer term guys like Elias Lindholm, Rasmus Andersson, and Eichel.
2. The Battle of Alberta will be Must-Watch Hockey
If it wasn’t already the league’s best rivalry after 2019-20, adding Jack Eichel to it would make it can’t-miss viewing for any hockey fans. Sure if Tkachuk is the rumored piece back going the other way, Calgary would lose some of their edge, but adding Jack Eichel (drafted one spot after Connor McDavid) would give the matchup two of the top five centers in the league on teams that are already doing very well this year. It would be great for the sport and draw a ton of attention to these two teams that haven’t accomplished much of anything in the last 15 years, especially the Flames.
3. Calgary would have to stay competitive while waiting for Eichel
This is sort of a double-sided outcome. On one hand, it would have been a lot easier for the Flames to justify a franchise-changing trade like this one if they had started as their typical mediocre October selves. Instead, sitting with a 6-1-2 record through nine games has a lot of people very happy with where things currently stand.
By trading for Eichel and removing at least one or maybe two pieces of your current roster, you risk jeopardizing what looks to be an already better season for the team. On the flip side, the hot start has given them a bit of cushion to work with while also being in the relatively poor Pacific Division. With Eichel’s return rumored to be after the Olympic break, Calgary would have to survive about 40 games without him and whoever they trade, but would get him back for the final 30 games of the season.
4. Two Tkachuk’s in the Atlantic Division
I mean it would go a long way in generating interest for two teams that have been mired in bad hockey for a long time now. Matthew Tkachuk is no doubt a player that a lot of teams around the league would love to have, and adding double the Tkachuk to the Atlantic Division would also be great marketing for the league for two less popular teams. That is of course if the NHL did a good job marketing their product, but that’s another issue entirely.
5. Calgary would have an Elite Centre Core
If this trade is made and Tkachuk is the only NHL forward leaving Calgary, then the Flames would end up possessing arguably the best center group in the league or at the very least in the Top 3 in my opinion. With Eichel, Elias Lindholm, and Mikael Backlund on the first three lines, Calgary would definitely be the better team down the middle and really counter the Oilers McDavid-Draisiatl punch well. When you also factor in players like Dillon Dube and Sean Monahan who have experience down the middle, then you’re looking at an extremely deep lineup. You need great centres to win the Stanley Cup. It’s that simple.
6. Eichel would be the culminating piece of the entire rebuild
If there’s one thing that the Flames rebuild really missed out on, it was that super high pick to draft a superstar player. Sure they got Tkachuk, Monahan, and Sam Bennett (ugh) at #4, but they never got that chance to draft first or second overall to nab an elite of the elite player. Instead they built the team slowly over the years, adding pieces through drafting and trades, followed by bringing in Jacob Markstrom and head coach Darryl Sutter.
The Flames have also done a good job of filling their prospect cupboards as well to either include as pieces in this trade, or to fill in roster holes moving forward at the NHL level. A combination of A level prospects (Coronato, Pelletier, Zary, Wolf) and B level prospects (Francis, Ruzicka, Heineman, etc.) will give the Flames options for trading, but also allow them to be confident in what’s leftover. Everything is in place right now for the team to go for it, and Eichel would be the culmination of all of the efforts.
7. Does acquiring Eichel do enough to entice Gaudreau to re-sign?
This is more speculative, and is more just my opinion, but I am not making this trade as the Flames if you aren’t very comfortable in believing that Johnny Gaudreau will re-sign after you make the deal. There really isn’t a way that the Flames can financially add Eichel while re-signing Gaudreau, Tkachuk, and Mangiapane, but by dealing Tkachuk they should be able to make it all fit. However adding Eichel to play with Gaudreau for ~30 games and one playoff crack just doesn’t seem to be worth it for me.
There is no doubt that the Eichel trade talk will only get louder as things seem to move towards a conclusion heading into this weekend. It is exciting that the Flames are right in the middle of things but at the same time, a big change like this will widen the potential outcomes (both positive and negative) for the team. Change can be scary, but change is what fans of this team have been wanting for years.
It may be romanticizing things but you could like this to the Derozan-Leonard trade with the Toronto Raptors a few years back. It will hurt to lose a fan favourite in Tkachuk, but the ultimate goal is to win a Stanley Cup and the Flames would be a lot closer to that goal if Jack Eichel joined the team. We shall see.
Should the Flames trade Tkachuk, a former 1st round pick, a 1st, and prospects for Eichel?
Yes, you can’t pass up Eichel
No, you can’t lose Tkachuk
118 votes total