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NHL Trade Talk

Is potential Eichel trade cost too high for Flames?

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calgary flames, nhl trade, jack eichel

There has been enough Jack Eichel to the Calgary Flames or Vegas Golden Knights insider educated speculation. We don’t need another one of those articles.

The bottom line is Vegas still seems to be the furthest down the path of negotiation, has the most salary cap space, and has been making roster moves that fit the profile of a team about to lose some more players.

What we should be talking about is what the Calgary Flames might have to give up securing the future services of the 25-year-old awaiting neck surgery, and whether it would be worth it.

As much as many fans would love to see a Battle of Alberta pitting Eichel against Connor McDavid for the next decade, you can’t say the inability to bring Eichel here is an unmitigated failure by GM Brad Treliving.

Keep in mind that this is a team that brought in head coach Darryl Sutter mid-season last year to whip into shape (kind of literally) a group that management believes can and should be better. Rebuilding is not the plan here.

Any trade under that assumption would be unlikely to include players that significantly hurt their chances of competing this year while they await a healthy Eichel.

In that case, parting with this team’s stars – Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm in particular – makes little sense, even if there is a concern about their expiring contracts. Mikael Backlund and Blake Coleman are also part of a core necessary to compete now.

You can make the same case for a few others, but more on that later.

Flames salary cap restraints complicate trade discussions

Significant salary cap restraints further complicate their trade discussions – the depth of those talks next to impossible to confirm because of how tightly wound the circle of trust is in Calgary. Nearly equal salary would have to be sent to the Sabres.

Reports about what Buffalo is looking for in return for their damaged but deadly superstar former captain have varied. Common overlap in speculated demands include a combination of high draft pick(s), young prospect(s) and at least one promising roster player not including what they might have to take back just to make Eichel’s $10M salary balance before he can be placed on LTIR with his new club.

It’s tough to imagine any deal not including one of the Flames’ established stars could be completed without shipping out Sean Monahan – a $6.375-million cap hit.

If Buffalo appears on Monahan’s 10-team no-trade list, he might also have to be convinced to waive his modified No Trade Clause. However, his current slot as fourth-line centre can’t be all that appealing to the 27-year-old alternate captain.

What the Flames have to offer the Sabres

Monahan is essentially a throw-in. The Flames could offer a first-round pick or two (hopefully with some conditions based on the slim but real possibility that Eichel doesn’t return to form after surgery), and some combination of top prospects like Connor Zary, Matthew Coronato and Jakob Pelletier. Or maybe the Sabres covet promising goalie Dustin Wolf.

Whatever the agreeable cost of non-roster players and picks might be, the Sabres still need to take back some salary, and we haven’t yet touched on the young and talented likes of Andrew Mangiapane and Dillon Dube as potential pillars of a deal. How about Juuso Valimaki or – gasp – Oliver Kylington.

You don’t really think the Sabres would want Nikita Zadorov and his $3.75M deal even if it is just for this season? They might take it, but the cost likely just goes up with the other assets.

Two young prospects that might be tough to part with

Mangiapane’s value, meanwhile, has never been higher. There may be no hotter goal-scoring player per 60 minutes of ice time. Dube fits the mould as a speedy young player with plenty of upside and the ability to play wing or centre.

But are the Flames willing to go there? How much would the team’s replacement value dip if one of the prospects not packaged in the deal then has to make the jump to the NHL. Can Pelletier fill in for Mangiapane? Would Phillips adequately replace Dube? Long-term, sure. Not sure about in the now.

Those are the ultimate decisions of a deal from the Calgary Flames perspective. Eichel’s true impact might not come until well into the new year. Can the Flames stay competitive losing one or two of their most promising young roster players while also sacrificing some of the depth behind them?

That’s the only question we should be asking here.

At least the answer seems to be coming sooner than later.

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