Could Eichel Be The Missing Piece of the Puzzle?
Jack Eichel – Center, 24
At just 24 years old, Jack Eichel has cemented himself as an elite center in the NHL. Playing for arguably the worst NHL franchise at the moment may hinder anyone’s ability, but the Massachusetts native has excelled in the league since being drafted in 2015, posting 355 points over 375 games during his six-year career.
Up until this point, Eichel’s career has been characterized by saying such as, “It’s too bad he’s on the Sabres “, “He’s a diva”, and “I’d love to see what he looks like on a winning team”. All of these are valid points, and I’d especially like to see the last saying come to fruition. Well, I might just be in luck as it has been reported over the past few weeks that the Sabres are taking calls on Eichel.
What’s even more exciting if you are fan of any team other than the Sabres is that supposedly, according to Elliotte Friedman, the team from upstate New York has lowered their asking price for Eichel. This is a sign that they know they can’t get exactly what they want, which was rumored to be four first-round picks or four established and successful NHL’ers, and will settle for the best offer sent their way.
Now I have seen everyone and their mother post rumors about supposed destinations for Eichel and how he would fit in on a slew of teams. Seeing as I write about the Montreal Canadiens, I was curious about whether the Habs have any shot at landing this exciting young center who oozes potential but has yet to even taste NHL success.
Our first question is; do the Canadiens have a shot at landing Eichel? Absolutely, with our large cap space and deep prospect pipeline, as well as our slew of draft picks heading into the 2021 draft, we have everything we need to make a trade happen. Our second question is; should the Canadiens pursue Jack Eichel?
In my humble opinion, I think they should. It’s been a very long time since Montreal has had a bonafide star forward (Alex Kovalev being the last in my opinion), and we could use the scoring and offensive production Jack Eichel brings to the table. For the longest time, the Montreal Canadiens have been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL.
It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that the game of hockey is built upon one rule; put the puck in the net. Without scoring, you can’t win. Well, Jack Eichel has proven he can score and contribute offensively while playing on the worst team in the NHL. I think that speaks volumes about his talent. First off, let’s look at the various pros of Eichel’s game.
As a centreman, your first duty comes in the face-off circle. I have yet to see a center to who neglected their face-off taking skills. When it comes to winning face-off’s, Eichel is no scrub, as he has a 53% face-off win percentage over his six seasons in Buffalo.
Many Montreal fans believe that the Canadiens have some of the best face-off winning percentages in the league, thanks in large part to Phillip Danault and his skills in the face-off circle. Although Danault enjoyed a 52.5% face-off win percentage during the 2020-21 season, the Canadiens still finished tied for 24th place in face-off win percentage in the league.
With TSN hockey analysts reporting in recent days that Danault is likely not returning to the Canadiens, it is imperative the Habs find a suitable face-off replacement for him. But Eichel wouldn’t just be brought on for his prowess in the face-off circle, as he also has massive upside on the power-play.
Power Play Production
In 375 NHL games, Eichel has managed to amass a cool 127 points on the man advantage. Keep in mind this is on a Sabres team that has finished within the bottom-10 of the NHL’s highest-scoring teams since his entry into the league. As it is known by many a Canadiens fan, our power-play looks great some night’s and looks like a four-year-old drew it up on others.
Last season the Canadiens finished 18th in the league for power-play conversions, below league average. For any team looking to stay afloat, we would see this as great. However, I know the Canadiens have more in them, and with them finishing as runner-ups in the Finals, should look to get back there as soon as possible.
With Eichel on the top power play line, along with Caufield, Suzuki, Petry, and either Gallagher or Anderson in front of the net, I can see this becoming a lethally scary power play that would put fear in the hearts of our opponents. Could you imagine? Goalies wouldn’t know who to focus on first.
As we stated earlier, it’s been a long time since the Canadiens have had an elite superstar (minus Carey Price) drawing into the line-up night in and night out. Jack Eichel has loads of talent, and I don’t even think he has touched his ceiling yet. Remember, you don’t get drafted number two overall for nothing.
Eichel would immediately step in and become the Hab’s number one center, as well as their best offensive player. Seeing as he’s only 24 years old, we would get a young center that would fit perfectly within the direction the Canadiens are heading towards in the future.
The Habs already have young names in Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki, Alex Romanov, Cale Fleury, Ryan Poehling, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Cayden Primeau to build on for the future. Could you imagine adding Eichel into that mix? Now I understand that we would need to sacrifice one of those players to make the deal go through, but I believe giving up Kotkaniemi and Fleury wouldn’t derail the Canadiens’ plans for the future.
Now that we have looked at the benefits that Eichel would bring to the Canadiens, let’s look at the supposed “cons” associated with bringing him on.
Over the past six years, Eichel has gotten a bad rap for having what many refer to as a “diva attitude”. In my honest opinion, I don’t see it. What I see is a young and hungry leader who wants to win. If I am the Montreal Canadiens I’m looking at this and seeing exactly what I want out of a player I am looking to acquire.
Time and time again, the reports surrounding Jack Eichel always mention how he wants the Sabres to do better and succeed. Could he have gone about doing these things in better ways? Probably, but who hasn’t messed up a couple of times in their life? I know I sure have. And it’s not like Eichel hasn’t stepped up and produced. He has consistently been the only glimmer of hope on a terrifyingly bad Sabres team.
When I see Eichel I see a young captain ready to win, and willing to do anything to achieve. Is he outspoken? Yes, but the best always are. The truth is, he’s a big-market player whose prime years are being eaten away playing for the lowly team from Buffalo.
Jack, if you’re listening to this, come to Montreal. We have the greatest fans in all the NHL (anyone who says different can talk to me privately), we are a big hockey market that can give you tons of exposure, and most importantly, we want to win! If you are Eichel and you see that the Habs just got to the Stanley Cup Finals, why wouldn’t you want to join them and try to bring ‘ole Stanley home?
It’s no secret that the reason Eichel missed the majority of the 2020-21 season was because of a lingering neck injury he was getting treatment for. Over his six-year career, Eichel has been injured six times, two of which caused him to miss significant time.
Many pundits question whether or not he can stay healthy to play a full season, as he has only done it once, kind of, during his career (played 81 games one season). If you are looking to acquire a player, you want to make sure he can stay healthy, as no one is looking to add $10 million to their plate for a battered and broken hockey player.
From what I have seen so far, Eichel’s injuries haven’t been too much of a concern. If I were the Habs, I would still try to wheel and deal for him.
Critics seem to be scared of the $10 million AAV that comes along with Jack Eichel, but why should the Habs be scared? I mean, pending that Shea Weber is placed on long-term injury reserve (LTIR), the Canadiens will have close to $22 million in cap space. With this amount of money, why not go after a marquee player like the Massachusetts native.
I understand many fans are concerned about the upcoming contracts of Suzuki, Caufield, & Romanov, but I am sure that seeing as they are young they would agree to contracts all within the range of the $5.5 – 7 million dollar range. Also, the cap is going to go up in the next couple of years, which will only add to the benefits the Canadiens will receive.
With Weber off the books that would be a massive help to our cap. If the Jonathan Drouin situation gets sorted out as well then the Habs are, for lack of a better word, chilling and can easily maintain their cap space to be league compliant in the years to come.
Who knows what happens with Eichel. All I know is that the Canadiens should look into adding him to the roster, as he could be the missing ingredient to the Stanley Cup-winning recipe.
Dropping the Mike on ya!