NHL rumors: Surprise team emerges in Jack Eichel trade sweepstakes

Several teams have a strong case to pursue Jack Eichel, but a surprising suitor has surfaced.

The Buffalo Sabres won the NHL Draft lottery, but the cloud hanging over them is the Jack Eichel situation. Off-and-on trade rumors seem sure to come to fruition this offseason, as the two sides disagree on the treatment of an injury that cost him a big chunk of this season.

Eichel is still only 24 years old. So teams who may have interest in him have to weigh whether he’s part of the problem in Buffalo, or a product of the problem. But any team looking for a capable center has to be considering what they’d give up for the former second-overall pick.

As trade talks around Eichel reportedly start to heat up, the New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings, Columbus Blue Jackets and Philadelphia Flyers are among the suitors laid out by Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic. But another, more surprising, suitor is also on his list and there’s now more credibility to that team really being in the mix.

Are the Anaheim Ducks a legit suitor for Jack Eichel?

If Buffalo’s preference is to send Eichel West, as Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet suggested, that puts the Kings and Ducks theoretically atop the list of destinations. Both teams have top-10 draft picks too, with the Ducks (third overall) perhaps with a small edge over the Kings (eighth overall) if that matters to the Sabres.

Specifically regarding the Ducks, Friedman pointed to center Trevor Zegras and defenseman Jamie Drysdale as pieces they could send to Buffalo for Eichel. It would be one or the other of their most recent first-round picks (Zegras No. 9 overall in 2019; Drysdale No. 6 overall in 2020), along with the third overall pick and maybe something else. Friedman added he’s unsure if the Ducks would part with Zegras.

Once able to be booked as an annual participant, with an occasional deep run, the Ducks have missed the playoffs in three straight seasons now. Trading for Eichel would be a big move toward ending that streak, if general manager Bob Murray is willing to pony up to get him.