The Jack Eichel sweepstakes are heating up, and the Blue Jackets have a seat at the table.
Per a report from Elliotte Friedman, the Blue Jackets are one team that has been engaging in advanced talks with Buffalo in pursuit of Eichel, who would make the Blue Jackets a much better team.
"I believe those conversations with teams like Anaheim and Columbus among them, are pretty in-depth," said Friedman on Monday.
Eichel would give the Blue Jackets a formidable one-two punch with Patrik Laine on his wing. and would give the club a player to build around for the future. The 24-year-old has notched 139-216-355 in 375 career NHL games, all on terrible Sabres teams.
"I believe that the Sabres have entered in some pretty in-depth trade discussions on Eichel. I think they know what the market is, and who's interested," said Friedman. "The most challenging thing about this...I found no evidence that they've given anybody permission to talk to Eichel to discuss his future with his health and what kind of surgery he wants and where that's going to go. So, at this point in time, if you want to trade for Eichel, you have to go through the team."
Eichel played in just 21 games during the 2020-21 NHL season, notching 2-16-18 before being shut down for the rest of his campaign with a herniated disk in his neck. It was originally thought to be a rather minor injury, but it was much more serious than the Sabres initially believed.
"I understand that the Sabres are asking a ton, and they should," said Friedman. "Eichel is a cornerstone player. He's a number-one center, and he can make a big difference in this league...this is a trade the Sabres want to win."
There's no question that the Sabres are in the middle of a rebuild, and the Blue Jackets have amassed three first-round picks in this year's draft. It may be a match made in heaven if they're able to get a deal done with Buffalo. If the Blue Jackets acquire Eichel, it will send a message that they are not looking to rebuild, but rather to reload. His contract has five more seasons on it, and it carries a $10 million hit. That's not the kind of contract that a team should take on unless they're ready to compete.
It's no secret that Eichel is unhappy in Buffalo, and if the Sabres haven't made a deal with the season fast approaching, they may have to lower their asking price. Even with that possibility, it's very likely that Eichel has played his last game in a Sabres sweater.