Report: Wild held initial trade talks with Sabres about Eichel

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The Minnesota Wild have apparently entered the Jack Eichel sweepstakes.

The club has had initial trade discussions with the Buffalo Sabres about their superstar center, The Athletic's Michael Russo reports.

The Wild have lacked an impact player down the middle of the ice for much of their existence, and they're still in need of a pivot entering the 2021-22 campaign.

Joel Eriksson Ek, a restricted free agent, enjoyed a breakout season and finished fourth in Selke Trophy voting, but the team's center depth behind him is alarming.

Nick Bonino and Nick Bjugstad are unrestricted free agents, while Victor Rask and Nico Sturm are one year away from becoming UFAs. Ryan Hartman made the difficult transition from wing to center last campaign but is still unproven at his new position. Marco Rossi, the 2020 ninth overall pick, had his development slowed by a harsh battle with COVID-19 this past year.

Minnesota enters the offseason with $22-million in projected cap space, per CapFriendly, but in addition to Eriksson Ek needing a new contract, Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala are RFAs as well.

The Sabres are widely expected to move Eichel after the player and organization appeared to have a publicized falling out.

In his end-of-season interview, Eichel revealed he's upset with the franchise's handling of his neck injury and that he's looking forward to next season "wherever that may be."

The 2015 second overall pick suffered a herniated disk in his neck in March, forcing him to miss the remainder of the campaign. Eichel implied in May he wanted to have surgery, but the team wouldn't allow it.

A few days later, Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams said Buffalo will proceed with "the people who want to be here."

Eichel recorded two goals and 16 assists in 21 games this season before suffering the neck injury. However, he racked up 78 points in 68 contests the year before.

The 24-year-old has five years left on his contract, carrying an annual cap hit of $10 million. A no-movement clause takes effect in 2022-23.

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Report: Wild held initial trade talks with Sabres about Eichel
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