Boston Bruins

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 17: Jack Eichel #9 of the Buffalo Sabres turns during a 3-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on October 17, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The Jack Eichel Sweepstakes came to a merciful end Thursday with the ending just about everybody predicted, as Eichel was moved from Buffalo to Las Vegas in a six-piece trade between the Sabres and beyond-all-in Golden Knights.

In addition to being more than willing to let Eichel get the neck surgery he wants, the Golden Knights remained on a multi-year heater when it comes to getting their guy. They won the Mark Stone sweeps in 2019 just months after they added Max Pacioretty via trade, and signed Alex Pietrangelo in 2020. The house always wins in Vegas, as you’d expect.

It’s also probably not a coincidence that the finalists (Vegas and the Flames) were both based in the West. There’s no chance the Sabres wanted to expose themselves to a half-decade (at least) of revenge showings from the man who basically grew to downright detest the organization for a litany of reasons. It’s best to just limit that to just two games per year.

And if you were an interested party in the East, your price was almost certainly more than what the Knights paid.

This is important as it relates to the Bruins.

First of all, the idea that you can build a Bruins-centered comparable package to what Vegas surrendered is fun, but it’s also fundamentally flawed in the sense that that four-piece package probably wasn’t an option for the Bruins.

Now, to be clear, the Bruins most definitely had an interest in Eichel dating back to last year. Their interest probably goes back further than that, to be honest, but 2020 is when they first started poking around the situation, a source told 98.5 The Sports Hub. But when the talks and rumors of Eichel leaving Buffalo got serious, people trying to nail down the ‘favorites’ often came back to two questions when Boston came up: Did the Bruins have the goods to meet Buffalo’s ask and/or would the Sabres really want to send Eichel to a team within their division, especially after watching Taylor Hall strong-arm his way to Boston? Answers to both questions caused understandable doubt in regards to an Eichel homecoming.

In the interest of fantasy packages, however, let’s first acknowledge that the B’s version of Peyton Krebs isn’t Jack Studnicka, as easy as that may seem. It’s probably 2021 first-round pick Fabian Lysell. Lysell certainly looks like the B’s best first-round pick since Charlie McAvoy in 2016, and there’s people both within and outside the organization who believe the Bruins may have struck David Pastrnak-esque gold with Lysell falling into their laps. In a prospect pool that’s relatively thin on high-end talent, you can’t blame them for having second thoughts about abandoning that after just three months and change.

If you’re looking for an Alex Tuch comp for the Bruins for a dollar-out standpoint, you can take your pick. Whether that’s Jake DeBrusk, Brandon Carlo, or maybe even Charlie Coyle. Any selection comes with its own fallout and pros-and-cons list. I also think it’s likely largely irrelevant, all things considered, as adding a salary like Eichel’s would’ve been of significantly more interest to the Bruins around the 2022 trade deadline. Not sure the Sabres and Eichel (and the NHL, for that matter) wanted to wait that long. Everybody in the league knew this saga needed to end. It was basically AMC’s The Walking Dead.

That was another massive roadblock in getting truly, heavily involved in the Eichel sweeps: Buffalo didn’t eat any money to send Eichel (due $10 million a year for the next five years) to Vegas. That was probably the rule for everybody. That caveat would obviously limit the B’s, who will pay McAvoy $9.5 million yearly beginning next year and have a (likely) similar extension for David Pastrnak due in the not-too-distant future. That’s a lot of cake without a guarantee that Eichel would be healthy.

Picks are picks. But you’ll never convince that the Bruins were escaping an Eichel deal surrendering just one first-round pick. The other, previously mentioned pieces they’d be shipping to Buffalo would’ve likely required more from a futures standpoint.

Really, the slim hope you had for an Eichel-to-Boston trade, to most, revolved around Eichel’s no-movement clause that does not kick in until next year. In other words, Eichel would have had to essentially sit out an entire season, twist in the Buffalo wind, and pull a 2021 Taylor Hall to land with the Bruins. There’s no way Kevyn Adams was going to go through that again.

Quite simply, the Bruins’ desperation and the timeline couldn’t keep up with the collapse between Eichel and the Sabres.

That was always going to be a problem, even with Eichel openly talking about the potential of playing for his hometown Bruins.

It was absolutely going to be a problem when the Golden Knights officially entered the chat, too.

There’s not a team in 2021 that epitomizes win now more than the Golden Knights. The way they’ve spent money and assets to acquire that aforementioned talent since their improbable run in 2018 only confirms that. And with all due respect to William Karlsson, this is a team that has needed a franchise center since their launch.

The Bruins were that team at one point. Now? It’s not as easy.

The Bruins went on a rare Day 1 spending spree this summer and made the small-but-impactful moves they believe will keep them contending for a Stanley Cup. But they also lost David Krejci and 36-year-old captain Patrice Bergeron is officially taking things year by year. As easy as it may be to say screw it and go all in for one final Cup with Bergeron still producing (something I’ve been all for, especially as we inch closer and closer towards the full-on collapse of civilization as we know it), you can’t ignore the thin prospect cupboards with repeated late first-round picks and trades involving first-round picks.

Just like the bill will come due for the Knights at some point, you could argue it’s been due for the Bruins, who may very well be at the always-dangerous organizational crossroads they’ve tried to dodge, duck, and dip around for over half a decade.

That’s enough to give you pause on any deal of this magnitude.

But especially one where you’re trying to outbid a win-now team that was always positioned to offer more (but also less at the same time given their geographical location and trade history) and live to tell the tale.

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Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.