It seems like an eternity since Jack Eichel trade rumors first surfaced with the Buffalo Sabres. Despite all the speculation and coverage, however, the actual trade is still yet to come.

The situation seemed to escalate in May when Eichel said there was a ‘disconnect’ between himself and the Sabres organization, regarding the handling of his neck injury. This came as the result of the two sides disagreeing as to which procedure the forward should undergo in order to treat the injury. 

At this point, the situation is basically at a stalemate. The Sabres are still trying to work out a deal, while Eichel has been stripped of his captaincy and can’t get the surgery he needs to recover and return to the ice. Now roughly five months into the saga, the organization is in a tough spot and seem poised to lose the inevitable trade.

For starters, not all teams are going to be comfortable with Eichel getting the surgery he’s hoping for. Right off the start, this limits trading partners, given it would be a non-starter for some altogether. 

After that, there’s the cap issue. Eichel’s contract carries a huge $10 million cap hit until 2026, which won’t be easy to fit onto a team’s payroll. If a team was to make room for the contract, it would’ve been easier to do so over the summer but at this point, a lot of teams would struggle to clear space. Many clubs decided to go a different direction and add other pieces, and would need to subtract current roster pieces, just to add Eichel. 

To top it off, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Sabres also reportedly aren’t willing to retain salary on the deal, which is only going to make things more difficult. While Friedman says they are willing to take back a contract, that’s a strategy that won’t work as well for some teams as for others. 

Then, on the other hand, most of the teams with the cap space to actually make the move likely aren’t in a position to contend. For them, dealing away a package of future assets for a single player, when they don’t have enough pieces around him anyways, doesn’t make a ton of sense. 

Then on a wider scale, the situation has been so public that the Sabres lack any leverage. Any teams potentially looking to trade for him have likely considered everything I’ve already listed and know a deal has to be made. Eichel can’t play until he gets the operation, which is at the root of the issue. As a result, if the Sabres don’t make a move, they’re letting their biggest asset continue to sit on the sidelines, without getting anything in return.

You do have to give some credit to Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams, given that he’s not just rushing the process and just taking the best available return. That said, you have to think Eichel’s value is only going down the longer the Sabres wait. At this point, who knows how soon Eichel would be able to return, and it’s likely the five-year term on his contract is reduced to four years by the time he’s actually able to play again. Then factor in that Eichel hasn’t played since early March and the longer this goes, the more concern could arise over how long it could take Eichel to actually get back to peak performance. 

Also, the longer this drags on without Eichel getting an operation, the further his return date gets pushed back. With the season underway, teams are no doubt turning their focus to how to put the best team on the ice right now. Contending teams will look to pay for players who can help their group this season and if Eichel won’t be back in time to help, there’s no urgency to trade for him. 

While we don’t know how many teams are in talks regarding the Sabres star, we know that given all these factors, there can’t be too many. It’s tricky to evaluate the situation because we don’t have much of the important information, like which teams are interested and what potential offers could look like. 

Hopefully, the Sabres are able to get back a key prospect, a couple of high draft picks and potentially a roster player. At this point, however, Eichel’s value is low and the Sabres are dealing from a position of weakness. There’s no way they’re going to get fair value for their franchise player. 

The reality is that we can probably assume that once a deal is finalized, the Sabres aren’t going to come away with the package they were looking for. I don’t know that we can necessarily put all the blame on Buffalo management for where things are at, given that they’re simply holding out for the best possible package. Given all the factors at play though, unfortunately, the Sabres are set up to lose the Jack Eichel trade.