It will come as no surprise that the Montreal Canadiens are still looking for a superstar first-line center. A few days ago, Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel made it clear that he was displeased with the team’s performances ever since he joined the franchise. Montreal is a team that is trending in the right direction and a team that could be battling for a playoff spot next spring. That would make it interesting for Eichel to come over since he has never been part of the postseason with the Sabres. We’ll take a look at the type of player Eichel is, what the Habs look like down the middle and how Eichel would fit, and what the Canadiens could offer for the big centerman.
Montreal Canadiens Acquiring Jack Eichel Could Be a Game Changer
Jack Eichel‘s Player Profile
Since joining the league in the 2015-2016 season, Eichel has improved every single season, making himself more indispensable for the Sabres year after year. He excels at creating scoring chances for his team and can change the outcome of a game on his own. He is the author of some incredible highlight-reel goals that only a few players in the league are capable of scoring. His creativity being through the roof makes him an unpredictable player. This past season, Eichel recorded 31 goals in 68 games finishing eighth in goals and finishing 10th in points with 78. Eichel has gained in maturity as his two-way game has improved these past two seasons. His Corsi has been over 50% for the past two seasons making him more reliable defensively.
Eichel is one of the few elements that work for Buffalo and there isn’t much to complain about concerning his game. The only aspect of his game where he disappoints is in the faceoff circle. Faceoff wise, Eichel is far from being the best, but it’s an area where he can definitely improve. In his career, Jack Eichel has won 43.7 percent of his faceoffs which isn’t good for an elite center.
The Center Position For the Habs
Everybody knows that the Canadiens have been looking for a first-line center for years now. With Jesperi Kotkaniemi taking longer than some expected to establish himself in the NHL and maybe never reaching that elite potential, acquiring a player like Eichel is crucial for the Habs in order to have success soon. Also, while Nick Suzuki has shown some high-end skill, it will take him a few more seasons to be the player that Montreal desperately needs. While he’s been playing very well, we can all agree that Phillip Danault is not a first-line center on a Stanley Cup-winning team. As for Max Domi, he plays better when Claude Julien puts him on the wing as he doesn’t play like a natural center.
With that being said, we can all agree that Montreal still needs that top centerman to have a shot at the Stanley Cup shortly. The lack of pure skill down the middle is a big reason why they haven’t made the playoffs these past few seasons. They have the high-intensity players and the two-way guys down the middle, but they still need that superstar center. Eichel would fit in perfectly with the Canadiens. His skill and his ability to finish plays is something the Habs are desperately looking for. He would allow Claude Julien to put Danault on the second or third line playing against the opposite team’s top-line while Eichel could focus on finishing plays. Also, it would allow Suzuki and Kotkaniemi to take their time to develop and not be rushed into a role that they’re not ready to take on.
What Could Montreal Offer?
The Habs have a lot to offer Buffalo in an eventual trade for Eichel. The first asset that comes to mind is Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Kotkaniemi had a decent rookie season with the Habs ending the season with 34 points in 79 games. This season, he struggled with consistency and was sent down to Laval where he found his game. He is still a good prospect that could end up becoming a top 6 forward regardless of the issues he encountered this season. The Habs wouldn’t be thrilled with the idea of trading the 3rd overall pick from the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, but there is a price to pay to get a player as talented as Jack Eichel.
The second asset that comes to mind is Max Domi. Domi has expressed clearly that he wants to play center in Montreal. We won’t enter the debate about whether or not he should play center, but with the potential arrival of Eichel, the emergence of Suzuki, and the two-way game of Danault, there wouldn’t be any place for #13 down the middle. Domi would bring competitiveness to a team that has had difficulty playing the full 60 minutes every night. We know Domi has the talent to put up a good amount of points every season which would help with the Sabres possibly moving on from Jack Eichel.
Finally, Montreal has a lot of draft picks to offer. The Habs currently have 14 selections in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft with three of them being second-round picks. It’s hard to believe that Marc Bergevin would hold on to all 14 picks Montreal owns. Also, it would make sense for Buffalo to get picks in this deal since they only have 6 picks in the upcoming draft.