The Buffalo Sabres may very well be their own worst enemy.
In spite of the fact that the regular season is now officially underway across the National Hockey League, the Buffalo Sabres still have seemingly come no closer to finding a potential solution to their Jack Eichel problem. You could make the argument that, with teams fully aware of the unenviable position the Sabres are in, they simply are not getting any fair offers, but that may not be the case.
On Saturday night National Hockey League insider Elliotte Friedman revealed that there was one major hurdle to getting this deal across the finish line, money. Specifically according to Friedman it sounds like the Sabres are entirely unwilling to talk about the possibility of retaining salary in this transaction. Now that may sound reasonable given that you're trading a superstar player but, when you consider the reality of the flat cap in the NHL, it makes moving a player with a cap hit of $10 million per season very hard to do.
"Basically what I understand is, one of the biggest hurdles right now to getting a Jack Eichel trade done is that the Sabres, who by the way are undefeated to start the season, do not want to retain any salary," said Friedman on Saturday. "Now they are willing to talk about taking contracts back to facilitate a deal, but it's still difficult with so many teams close to the cap and also Eichel still having 4 more years and $10 million a season left on his salary. I am told that is one of the biggest issues."
What makes this all the more frustrating, especially if you're a Buffalo Sabres fan hoping to at least see a decent return for your star player, is the fact that it would appear this has already caused one potential trade deal to fall apart. Friedman also revealed that the Avalanche may have come in with a serious offer, but cut talks off entirely when the Sabres made it clear that salary retention would not be happening.
"For example one team I believe made a call to Buffalo to see if there was a way to make it work was the Colorado Avalanche," revealed Friedman. "But the Avalanche were told that they weren't in a position where Buffalo was willing to take salary and I heard the talks just stopped right there."
Not only would salary retention facilitate a potential trade, with the obvious downside being that the Sabres would eat that cap hit for 4 years, but it could even be a way for the Sabres to maximize the return they get for Eichel in this deal. I'm only speculating here but if I had to guess I would suspect that this is a directive coming from ownership, rather than the hockey people in the Sabres front office.
I must admit that as more and more time goes by it becomes more and more difficult not to feel genuine pity for Jack Eichel who through all of this is still awaiting medical treatment.