With each Buffalo Sabres loss, the Jack Eichel rumour mill seems to hit another gear in online hockey circles. You’d be hard pressed to find a single NHL franchise that hasn’t been linked to the disgruntled 24 year old over the past few weeks. But amidst the long line of potential suitors, very few have the kinds of assets Buffalo would be looking for in return for their top line centre.
Players of Eichel’s skill set don’t just grow on trees and, much to the chagrin of arm chair GM’s across the internet, the Sabres won’t be shipping off a franchise cornerstone for pennies on the dollar. So save your hypothetical “Logan Brown + Formenton and a pick” trade scenarios, as Kevyn Adams might very well block your number if you’re calling with that kind of a non-starter.
As much as trading for a player of Eichel’s ilk would truly kick off the “window to compete” era for the Senators, you have to ask yourself: 1) After nearly 6 seasons withering away in Buffalo, how happy will Eichel be moving to another small market fringe playoff team? And 2) How many of the prospects Ottawa has been developing over the last few years would it take to pry the skilled American away from Buffalo?
If your vision for the future of the Ottawa Senators involves seeing players like Tkachuk, Stutzle and Chabot donning the 2D centurion for the next few years then we can move on from the Eichel Tower rumours immediately. One of those players, plus Ottawa’s 1st rounder this year is likely what it will take to get the conversation started. Not to mention that if you’re to believe what an anonymous GM recently told the Athletic , it seems like it’s only a matter of time before Jack is headed to the Rangers as part of a godfather offer currently on the table.
Instead, I’d argue that a prime target for Ottawa to acquire is one fans are already familiar with, Matthew Tkachuk. I’d be far more comfortable with the price tag that Tkachuk would command than what it would take to bring Eichel to the Nation’s Capital, and frankly it might even be a better fit long term anyways. Now that’s not to say that he would be cheap to acquire, but there’s at least some packages of picks and prospects you can put together that don’t involve any of the “Big 3” mentioned above that could likely get the deal done.
Calgary is currently mired in a free fall, and has been underperforming all season long. Anyone who got their bets in that Geoff Ward would be the next NHL coach fired at 18/1 odds (what several Vegas sports books listed him at following the Julien firing) has to like their chances at a payday right about now. With the 2021-22 season being the last that Matthew is under contract for, the Flames have to look at themselves in the mirror and ask whether their core of Monahan, Tkachuk, Gaudreau et. al. is enough to compete moving forward, or whether it’s best to sell high and restock the prospect pool.
Keith and Chantal have not so subtly been dropping hints in the press that they’d like to one day see their sons play together. What better way to entice Brady to stay at a “hometown discount” than by dangling the “C” in front of him, and affording him the opportunity to play with his brother. For an organization as financially conscious as the Senators, you’d be foolish to think the idea hasn’t at least crossed management’s minds. Lock up Brady long term, and then use that as leverage to subsequently lock up Matthew when his negotiation window opens afterwards as well.
Finances aside though, could you imagine how difficult the Senators would be to play night in night out with two Tkachuks on the ice? With Matthew averaging 19:52 of ice time a night, and Brady coming in at 18:16, if you split them up you’re forcing opponents to play two thirds of the game against a Tkachuk.
That’s a terrifying proposition, and the numbers back it up as well. Brady is currently 1st in the league in penalties drawn, and Matthew is 4th. With one of them on the ice for 40mins a night, you’d have to think that bodes well for the number of powerplay opportunities the club will be getting in the future. Not to mention that Brady is currently 2nd in the league in hits, and Matthew is 6th, so their ability to wear out the opposition would be unmatched in the league.
These aren’t big cement footed bodies either. Brady and Matthew are the new breed of power forwards in the league who can skate, score, scrap, and get under the opponent’s skin like no other. Players like Coburn and Gudbranson were reportedly brought in to deter opponents from taking liberties with the Sens young skaters. Well, to a degree they’ve done that, but for every post whistle shove they’ve given an opponent who roughed up Batherson or Stutzle, there have also been a litany of miscues defensively.
If you were able to provide that same level of deterrent by having two Tkachuks in your top 6, that frees up a lot of room for the young guns to get creative on the ice, while actually supplementing your offense as well. Having one of Matthew or Brady standing in front of the net all night is going to lead to a lot of greasy goals and subsequently happy fans.
Matthew is 2 years removed from a 77pt campaign, and last year had 61 points in 69 games, so the offense is there. By comparison, Eichel had 82 and 78 point campaigns during that same time frame. It begs the question then, would you rather have Eichel and an additional 11pts per year (at a steeper price tag) or Tkachuk and slightly less offense, but all the other intangibles at a discount?
At this point Sens fans can be excused if they start to develop a vested interest in Calgary continuing their losing ways. The hotter the seat gets under management, the more prone they’ll be to make a move to try to save their job. And history has not been kind to GM’s who make trades out of desperation in NHL folklore. Dorion may be a lot of things, but being labelled shy on the trade front is not one of them.
So enough with the hypothetical Eichel trades already, the price tag is going to be too steep and there’s too many question marks around fit. Tkachuk on the other hand, well he’d fit like a glove in Ottawa, and Keith and Chantal could ditch their half Flames half Sens jerseys and hop aboard the Sens Nation express.
Kyle Skinner | Sens Nation Podcast