Why Sharks shouldn't be ruled out if Sabres' Jack Eichel demands trade

Brian Witt
NBC Sports BayArea

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel is a phenomenal hockey player, and it's easy to understand why he might be frustrated in his current situation. He's one of the top young players in the NHL -- a true franchise centerpiece -- but he'll enter next season having never played for a winning team and will be playing for his third general manager at the professional level.

The 23-year-old has totaled 337 points over his first five seasons in the NHL, and scored a career-high 36 goals in just 68 games this past season before it was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Sabres finished tied for the third-fewest points in the Eastern Conference, extending their playoff drought to nine seasons.

On a conference call with reporters last month, Eichel made it clear he was not satisfied with the trajectory of the franchise.

"Listen, I'm fed up with losing and I'm fed up and I'm frustrated," Eichel said. "It's definitely not an easy pill to swallow right now. It's been a tough couple of months, it's been a tough five years with where things have went."

"I'm a competitor," he added. "I want to win every time I go out on the ice. I want to win the Stanley Cup every time I start a season ... I'd be lying if I said that I'm not getting frustrated with where things are going."

Eichel's comments seemed to have a direct effect on Buffalo's decision to clear house three weeks later, firing GM Jason Botterill along with other executives and scouts. Clearly, the hope is that the new regime will help turn things around in short order. If it doesn't, though, one wonders when Eichel will reach his limit.

If Eichel ever demanded a trade, every team in the league would be on the phone with the Sabres to see if a deal could be made. He has already proven himself to be one of the top talents in the game, and he has not yet entered his prime.

The Athletic's Eric Stephens and Lisa Dillman recently questioned if the Anaheim Ducks should pursue a trade for Eichel, if he were ever made available. But, what about the Sharks?

First things first: any trade for Eichel would first be dependent on him wanting out of Buffalo. Even if he did, the Sabres' asking price surely would be astronomical. In speaking with Stephens, NHL Network's Mike Johnson suggested the package likely would have to include a current young player, a future first-round draft pick and two top prospects.

"It would take so much," Johnson said, "it would be a hard deal to sort out."

Given all of that, is there any possibility Eichel could be wearing teal in the relatively near future?

It's extremely faint, but as long as Doug Wilson is San Jose's GM, it would be unwise to count the Sharks out of any superstar pursuit.

Erik Karlsson. Joe Thornton. Brent Burns. Evander Kane. Dan Boyle. Dany Heatley. Bill Guerin. Wilson has a lengthy history of acquiring big names. Eichel would certainly qualify, though the cost might be prohibitive.

Factoring in both what Buffalo likely would demand as well as salaries, a Sharks' potential trade package for Eichel might look something like: Burns, Ryan Merkley, Jonathan Dahlen and a future first-round pick -- and even that might not be enough. Burns' talent surely would be attractive to the Sabres, but he's also 35 years old. Not to mention, he has a modified no-trade clause in his contract.

[RELATED: Sharks avoid nightmare scenario in 2020 NHL Draft lottery]

If Burns wasn't included, he likely would have to be replaced in the deal by another player making a considerable salary. The best fit currently on the Sharks' roster might be Timo Meier.

Is Eichel worth Meier, Merkley, Dahlen and a first-round pick -- assuming that's enough to get a deal done?

That's a question for Wilson to answer. He might not be able to, but the Sharks and every other team in the league should be asking it.

Why Sharks shouldn't be ruled out if Sabres' Jack Eichel demands trade originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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