March 27, 2023
Revisiting the Jack Eichel Trade -

Revisiting the Jack Eichel Trade –

It’s not often that we see a win-win trade in the National Hockey League where both teams immediately see benefits.

This is generally because trading markets are set up between buyers and sellers – the latter typically moving assets when winning is no longer a priority as those assets in the form of prospects and draft picks yield future returns.

This scenario occurs in most salary-restricted sports. But occasionally, two teams can conspire to make a trade where both teams’ productivity improves rapidly.

As a Buffalo Bills fan, I’d like to note the team’s March 2020 acquisition of superstar wide receiver Stefon Diggs from the Minnesota Vikings for a number of draft picks, including a first-rounder. Within weeks, Minnesota turned that first-round pick into Justin Jefferson, an elite wideout for themselves. The deal had a lot more context, but Buffalo landed an extremely important weapon that came out of a protracted rebuild, while Minnesota was able to evict a somewhat disgruntled player and replace its production almost one-for-one.

I think Buffalo might have managed to make that kind of trade again, but this time in the NHL.

Remember last season’s mega trade where Jack Eichel traded to the Vegas Golden Knights for draft picks and a pair of forwards in Peyton Krebs and Alex Tuch?

We weren’t quite sure how this trade would play out, and to some extent we still aren’t. At the time, Eichel, Tuch, and Krebs all suffered serious injuries, with Eichel’s throat surgery being by far the most worrisome. On the Buffalo side, the franchise was mired in a seemingly endless run of on-ice futility. Why should we expect this deal to happen when so many haven’t?

That brings me to this season. If you haven’t seen the team in action, you’ve missed it. The Golden Knights shrugged off a two-season slump and are 5-2-0 (runners-up in the NHL) going into October. The Sabers were just as good, opening their season with a 4-1-0 record (seventh in the NHL). And who drives the bus? Acorn in Vegas and Cloth in Buffalo.

Let’s start with acorn. He was the big prize of the deal, and it was his playmaking ability that would spark a routinely snake-bitten Vegas attack. He has seven points (three goals, four assists) in seven games, so the individual performance was in abundance. But his line – which mostly starred with Reilly Smith and Phil Kessel, though we’ve seen him do a bit with Mark Stone as well – was electrifying.

Embedded Image

We had reasonable suspicions that when healthy, Eichel would be able to run meaningful attacks. He’s a wonderful playmaker and distributor, and there would be ample opportunity on a Vegas team that owns the puck better than most. Interestingly, his defensive numbers are strengthened, thanks in no small part to playing on a puck-dominant team (HockeyViz):

Embedded Image

Now let’s look at cloth. He’s always been a reliable center six scorer, but the Syracuse, NY native has upped his game since the trade. Tuch has averaged 1.1 goals per 60 minutes since the swap, putting him in the NHL’s top 100 (among qualified skaters) and on par with St. Louis’ Brandon Saad and Anaheim’s Trevor Zegras.

Tuch has been a man on a mission so far this season, scoring six goals (seven points total) in his first five games. He plays with similar linemates as last season, with Tage Thompson at center and Jeff Skinner on the other side.

Similar to the Acorn series in Vegas, this trio makes music:

Embedded Image

Expected goals decay a bit more aggressively than real goals, but there’s context behind it. Most importantly, Buffalo are not a puck-dominant team and have been playing leads a lot this season, resulting in less overall shot volume being generated on the offensive end.

Crucially for this still-forming Sabers team, expected goals are well above breakeven — an indication of above-average performance and the type of territorial play that can result in high goal differentials across stretches. And yes, this line is almost three goals better than their opponents every 60 minutes played when it comes to real goals.

It will be many months and years before we find a true winner and loser in this business. But one of hockey’s biggest trades in recent history, at least so far, is getting big results for two teams on the upswing this October.

Data via Natural Stat Trick,, Evolving Hockey

#Revisiting #Jack #Eichel #Trade #TSNca

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *