The Buffalo Sabres have enjoyed some early and unexpected success under head coach Don Granato, tied for second in the Atlantic Division with a 5-3-1 record, but the club has been unable to resolve the situation with former team captain Jack Eichel.
Eichel with powerhouse agent Pat Brisson and the Sabres are still at loggerheads regarding how to treat the center’s neck injury, with the club unwilling to allow disk replacement surgery to rectify. There were hints last week that Eichel’s camp would file a grievance with the NHL Player’s Association to force a resolution to the situation, but that threat has fallen by the wayside in the wake of increased chatter that Buffalo is inching closer to a deal.
ESPN’s Emily Kaplan reported that the leading candidates in the bidding war for Eichel were the Vegas Golden Knights and Calgary Flames, but neither club have matched the Sabres asking price of four first-round equivalent assets for the 25-year-old center.
After signing defenseman Zach Whitecloud to a six-year contract extension and free agent Ben Hutton to a one-year deal last week, speculation began to percolate that defenseman Shea Theodore might be part of a package headed to Buffalo, but the deal-breaker appears to be Vegas GM Kelly McCrimmon’s unwillingness to include young blueline Nicolas Hague or 20-year-old center Peyton Krebs (the Golden Knights 2019 first-round pick) in the deal.
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Another hurdle is the Sabres’ unwillingness to retain any part of Eichel’s $10 million salary for the five years remaining on the contract.
While the reported offer is as close as any potential deal has come to meeting GM Kevyn Adams’ asking price, Tkachuk is coming off a disappointing year (16 goals, 27 assists in 56 games). His being included could be because the 23-year-old is in the final year of a three-year, $21 million contract and one year away from unrestricted free agency, the same situation the Sabres faced last summer with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen and forward Sam Reinhart before both were traded.