Buffalo Sabres need to fully rebuild by trading Jack Eichel and bringing in a big name coach

“Listen, I’m fed up with the losing and I’m fed up and I’m frustrated,” says Jack Eichel. “You know, it’s definitely not an easy pill to swallow right now.” These words from the Buffalo Sabres superstar may sound like they are from today but that’s a quote per ESPN in May of 2020.

Jack Eichel was optimistic heading into the season

The Sabres heard Eichel loud and clear after missing the playoffs again last season. They made moves to change their fortunes by adding veteran Eric Staal to the group. Of course the biggest surprise of free agency was Taylor Hall choosing to sign one year in Buffalo. For the first time in long while Eichel was optimistic.

“We added Eric Staal. Obviously, he’s won a Cup, he’s been around the league for a while. A guy like Cody Eakin, a guy like Hallsy. These are guys, established guys in the league that are older, veteran guys. I think they bring a lot on the ice. Taylor Hall, MVP a few years ago. He’s going to bring a lot to the game, but I think they bring a lot to the locker room and just overall the culture of your group. … It’s so hard to win when you’re young. … I think it’s so important to have that veteran presence in the room and on the ice, so I think it was good for us to add that this offseason. We’ll see what happens.”

Jack Eichel via Buffalo News

Now here we are again. Another head coach fired and another mass fire-sale at the trade deadline. If Jack Eichel hasn’t formerly asked to be traded you get the sense it is inevitable. That’s why this summer the Sabres must aggressively shop him and take the best package available.

They need a fresh start and Eichel has seen too much already. How can you expect him to buy in to what is in essence the third rebuild in his Sabres career.

Trading Eichel before his no trade clause kicks in

Jack Eichel trade
Jack Eichel out (NHLI/Getty Images)

Jack Eichel signed an 8 year deal for $80,000,000 in 2018. He’s rewarded the Sabres with 178 points in 166 games since he inked the contract. For his young career, he has 355 points in 375 games. Unfortunately for him the Sabres are heading to a sixth straight season with no playoff games. Matter of fact, the only thing Eichel has experienced are 3 coaching changes already. Not exactly the definition of stability in Buffalo.

The 24 year-old center comes with an AAV $10 million and has 5 more years remaining. However, the way they structured the deal he was paid $7.5 million in a signing bonus this season. His base salary on this year was just $2.5 million, so the Sabres were never trading him this season after paying all that money.

This offseason, their stance on moving Eichel will likely change because finances play a huge role in the NHL’s COVID economy. In the summer of 2022 he will be due another $7.5 million bonus and his no trade kicks in. If Eichel is going to be dealt it would make more sense to do it before the start of next season and no later than the trade deadline.

Should they opt to hold onto him, teams will know Eichel can slam the door on any trade that summer. Trading him at the next deadline will likely not yield maximum return as they could get if he were moved at the draft.

Commit to a full rebuild and bring it John Tortorella

john tortorella
Aug 11, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella gestures as he speaks to his players in game one of the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs against Tampa Bay LIghtning at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Sabres have some talented pieces to work with. Sam Reinhart is emerging as top center. Rasmus Dahlin will spearhead the defense for a decade. Linus Ullmark is a quality goalie but they could also get one in a package by trading Eichel. Simply put, the Sabres need young moldable talent not jaded by the last 6 seasons of ineptitude.

When it comes to trade packages, they received a reasonable offer already from the New York Rangers. After speaking with knowledgeable people I believe the Rangers offer was something along the lines of Vitali Kravtsov, a roster player (possibly Filip Chytil), a young prospect defenseman, and a first round pick. Two untouchable prospect defenseman in the Rangers organization are Nils Lundkvist and Braden Schneider but they have others like newly signed Zac Jones.

While the idea of trading Jack Eichel may seem painful for Sabres fans it’s hard to refute the fact that with him not much has happened in terms of franchise success. There’s obviously a lot that goes into it, but starting almost from scratch may be the way to go.

Buffalo also needs to bring in a coach with a reputation. Gerard Gallant is an option. Another could be Claude Julien. However, if you want to change the entire culture in the organization there’s only one man that can do it immediately; John Tortorella.

There’s rumblings out of Columbus that they may not extend him and thus Torts could be available. If that’s the case he is undoubtedly the man you bring in to teach the young kids what it means to be a Sabre and how to win in the NHL.

He’s the kind of coach that draws all the attention. Many people don’t realize it but he’s calculated that way. When his team’s play poorly the press is more interested in getting a Torts moment than asking players what they think went wrong. It doesn’t always work; especially when Torts benches players like Patrik Laine, but that’s who he is. Everyone is accountable and he doesn’t care how many jerseys with your name on it are sold. Play the “right way” or sit. You always know where you stand on a Torts team.

It’s time Buffalo. Rip off the bandaid and reshape the course of the franchise.