Irresponsible Rumormongering

Aleksander Barkov vs. Jack Eichel: Who would be the better acquisition?

The talk of Rangerstown has been all about the kid from Beantown, Jack Eichel of the Sabres. The star center looks more and more like he is going to want out of the mess that’s going on in Buffalo. It’s understandable why Rangers fans are dreaming of Eichel in blue. He has 350 points in 368 career games (139 goals, 211 assists) and has been one of the top centers in the NHL since he arrived during the 2015-16 NHL season. He is a dream acquisition for a team who has depth at seemingly every position except center. But he isn’t the only player the New York Rangers should look at to improve center depth. The Rangers might want to pursue Aleksander Barkov from the Panthers.

Enter Aleksander Barkov

The second overall pick of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft has been a force for the Florida Panthers and he’s taken his game to increasing heights year after year. He’s now locked in as their number one center on a team that just can never seem to find the right combination of talent to make it all come together. Barkov has 425 points in 495 career games (161 goals and 264 assists). In 2018-19, Barkov won the Lady Byng Trophy after putting up 96 points in 82 games. Immediately, many will say Eichel is far and away the superior player and the Rangers should focus all their attention there but when we take a deeper look at both players, they don’t seem so far off at all and in some cases, the advanced stats may surprise you. Time to dive in.

(Before I begin this section I’d like to extend a special thank you to Dave Shapiro and Rob Luker for helping me out. As a writer and hockey fan, I’m doing more to understand advanced stats so I can understand the game better. This gives you readers of BSB even more high quality content to look forward to.)

This Year’s Numbers

This season, Aleksander Barkov has an xGF% of 65.08% at 5v5, while Jack Eichel has an xGF% of 64.46 at 5v5. Barkov has the slight edge in this category, but it is rather negligible. Breaking it down more, Barkov generates more offense, but Eichel is better defensively, as seen above.

Both players play on their top lines and both have been on ice for relatively the same amount at even strength. The gap is narrow, but it shows that Barkov is just as feasible an option for the Rangers as Eichel.

Barkov, this season at 5v5, has a CF% of 58.93% while Jack Eichel has a CF% of 58.05. Again the edge is slight and again, Barkov comes out on top. While again slight, the Panthers do spend more time in the offensive zone with Barkov on the ice than Buffalo does with Eichel. This is the second slight edge to Barkov.

We move onto the third advanced stat and that’s ixG, individual expected goals. This essentially tells us how the player’s goals scored compare to his GF%. This season, at 5v5, Barkov has an ixG of 3.59 while Eichel has an ixG of 2.45. This is in line with the xGF/60 above. Barkov currently has four even strength goals so his ixG matches up almost exactly to how he’s scoring at even strength. Eichel is another story. He currently has just one goal at even strength this year and his ixG tells us that he’s been unlikely.

To add to this, Barkov’s shooting percentage is at 10.9% rate while Eichel is at 4.4% overall. Barkov’s shooting percentage is right around his average (13.3%) while Eichel is way below his average (10.6%). Eichel has been a bit unlucky. Clearly this season we see Barkov has been the better center of the two players. He has Eichel beat in each of our categories, albeit slightly.

Career Averages

So how do their 2021 season stats compare to their career averages? Aleksander Barkov has a career xGF% average of 53.1%, so he’s producing way above his average this season at 65.08%. Jack Eichel has a career xGF% average of 51.04% so he is also producing way above his average so far this year at 64.46%. Both are having spectacular seasons, but small sample size alert and these will change.

The biggest thing to takeaway here is that Barkov has a higher career xGF% and CF% than Eichel by a little over two percent for both stats. He’s been better at helping the Panthers get higher quality and quantity scoring chances over the course of his career than Jack Eichel has with the Sabres. Eichel does have the ixG advantage (11.5-9.73), so he does have more perceived talent. Eichel needs to hope his puck luck changes soon to see if he can get his usual numbers up.

The Contract Situations

Barkov has one year remaining on his six-year deal with a $5.9 million cap hit, after which he will be a UFA. Eichel has five years left at $10 million per season. It’s clear from above that these are two immensely different contract situations. Barkov will be a rare 26 year old free agent, and could get as much as seven years (if he signs outside of Florida) at over $9 million. Imagine the bidding war if Barkov were to make it all the way to unrestricted free agency?

The Rangers could choose to trade for Barkov, assuming Florida is willing to move him. Their best chance is this offseason when his NMC turns into a modified no-trade. A guaranteed extension would be required before the trade, though.

Meanwhile acquiring Eichel, which many people believe will happen before he is due his $7.5 million dollar signing bonus in the summer of 2022, is another possibility that has been discussed. His NMC is there, but probably won’t be an issue. The Sabres will have a very important decision to make about their future at this point in time. Do they stick with Jack and keep trying to build a championship caliber team behind him? Or do they enter a pseudo-rebuild centered around Rasmus Dahlin, Dylan Cozens and Sam Reinhart?

If it comes to Eichel or Barkov –assuming again that Barkov becomes available– then it will be a tale of two different situations. Eichel comes with the certainty of five years under contract, albeit at an expensive $10 million. Barkov might come cheaper in a trade, but there’s no guarantee of an extension. Although that latter part might be able to be worked out.

The problem with Eichel is that $10 million is a lot. The Rangers have some ELC’s ending that may cause cap issues. It wouldn’t be a matter of Eichel living up to the deal, but with Kaapo Kakko, Alexis Lafreniere, Adam Fox, K’Andre Miller and others needing new deals in the near future, there’s only so much money to go around. Barkov will be expensive, but not as expensive.

Trade Scenarios

Do the Rangers want to hold onto Mika Zibanejad or not? Can they afford his next deal and do they want to have him on a long term deal? With Zibanejad possibly getting something like $8 million a year on his next deal alongside Barkov/Eichel and Panarin, that’s three players making up more than a third of the salary cap. Add in the kids mentioned above, and it becomes a problem.

In looking at the numerous trade proposals for Eichel, there are a few that caught my eye. The first was Filip Chytil, Pavel Buchnevich, Nils Lundkvist or Braden Schneider (or similar prospect), and a first round pick for Eichel. If Buffalo wanted to really kick start a rebuild this would be a great haul for the disgruntled Eichel. Chytil gives them a center with top-six potential. Buchnevich gives them a good and young-ish top-six winger. Plus a high end prospect and a top pick to rebuild the farm.

For Aleksander Barkov, I could see the Rangers offering almost the same package as it fills needs for their team as well. It almost seems like whatever the trade for Eichel, it’s the same for Barkov.

The second scenario was Vitali Kravtsov, Morgan Barron, Alex Georgiev, Matthew Robertson, a 2021 first round pick and a 2022 first round pick. If Buffalo does this, they are banking on young players that aren’t far off from the NHL. But the salary would need some figuring out.

Would Florida do this for Barkov? Honestly this would signal rebuilding yet again for them and I don’t know if that’s where they’re headed. The young players would be great for both teams but this is a very team direction assessed trade.

The third scenario was Mika Zibanejad, Buchnevich, Georgiev, and two first rounders for Eichel (or Barkov). This trade makes a lot of sense if the Rangers feel Zibanejad’s future isn’t on Broadway and they are happy to build with Eichel as their better, younger center going forward. If you make this a trade for Barkov, switch Georgiev with someone like Robertson or Zac Jones since the Panthers have fantastic goalie depth.

It is worth noting that the Rangers aren’t going to trade Lafreniere, Kakko, Fox, Miller, or Shesterkin in any of these deals.

Barkov and Eichel: Two Supreme Talents

Barkov and Eichel are two of the premier centers in the NHL and both would make the Rangers better now and in the future. Eichel is the younger of the duo at 24, while Barkov is 25. Their ages both correspond to the current stage of the Rangers rebuild.

Imagine Barkov or Eichel with Panarin, Lafreniere, Kakko or some combination of the two on their wings? Imagine a power-play consisting of Barkov/Eichel, Panarin, Lafreniere, Kreider and Fox? The possibilities are extremely fun to think about.

Jack Eichel is no doubt a fantastic player, but Aleksander Barkov wouldn’t be a bad acquisition for the Rangers either. They are very similar players and as the advanced stats show us, Barkov has been even better in some aspects of his game that Eichel. Either one would be a huge upgrade. Which one would you prefer? Let me know what you guys think in the comments below.

Data and charts from naturalstattrrick.com, evolving-hockey.com and hockey-reference.com.

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  • Fun stuff but pass on both.
    Keep drafting, developing solid players, and building a truly deep system.
    Let others choke on those contracts.
    Need patience to see this thing thru.

    • Counterpoint: There comes a time where you need to fill in the gaps and go for it while your elite talent is cheap (Kakko, Laf, Fox, Miller, Shesty).

      • Any chance to throw in RNH and see how he compares to the other two stat-wise and contract-wise?

        I am not advocating RNH but I am curious to see how the comparisons go

    • Query: What prospect in the Rangers’ org is even ready to play center as an NHL player, much less a top line center?

      I love the rebuild too, but who is replacing the 50-70 total goals that Zib and Kreider usually produce on a combined basis every year?

      The problem is, and this is the Rangers’ fault, that there is no one even remotely close to being an NHL center in the Rangers’ org, who is currently already not on the big club.

      Their blame is that centers win in the NHL and they have really drafted none, that would make an impact, other than possibly Chytil, who has yet to prove that he can be a consistent top 6 performer. I think that he can, but he’s still not proven.

  • Why choose? Let’s get both! While we’re at it, let’s trade for McDavid. Ooooh look, it’s shiny. Must have!

    If you have to pay so much for either and pay again in terms of the cap, then find yourself a young Center circa 19-20-21 year old.

    • It’s interesting. Buffalo, Florida and Edmonton have Eichel, Brakov and McDavid and these teams all seem to be constantly rebuilding or at best being a fringe play off team.

      We definitely need to address our lack of center depth. We should be talking to The Kings to do that. They have a ton of young center depth, both top 6 and bottom 6 potential in their farm system. (Vilardi, Byfield, Turcotte, Madden, Kupari and Thomas) And a few more years left with Kopitar. They have too much center depth and they could use a little more depth on D. We actually match up pretty well.

        • Yes … and to pay a King’s ransom for either Barkov or Eichel might set us back in terms of overall competency. All our prospects won’t pan out … some may take a step back before they step forward again … like Andy is suggesting, the Kings are loaded with talented prospect Centers and deficient with defensive ones … there may be a much better deal to be had with them, at least one that won’t deplete a lot of depth yet provide us with a budding Top 6C.

          That said, I still think Chytil if not this year, then next year, is getting ready to pop.

          • Agree with you on Chytil. He seemed to have chemistry with Kakko before the injury. If they put Lafreniere on their left wing and the line shows potential I don’t think a semblance of the 3rd package is over paying.

  • Personally, I prefer Barkov. But I don’t think Florida is trading him or letting him hit FA. Looks like they are finally playing like a cup contender this season.

    • The reason for the trade smoke around Barkov is that people feel like he will not stay in FL.

  • Eichel will likely be available and Barkov probably not. We need a 1C, there is no doubt. Either one will get around $10M in 2022.

    I dread putting either one under the pressure of being the Ranger savior. I would take either one, but I suspect that means no Zibby, which at the moment does not look like a great loss.

    • Oh Zibby – what have you done for me lately?

      Playing through post-Covid recovery? Not enough apparently.

  • This team needs a hero. Panarin is great, but he is not enough. We need a star per line on the top 3 lines, and we just do not have it. I would take either one! Let either one be your 1C, Chytil your 2C and then give Barron a shot at 3C.

    This team will be feisty, but is currently short on top 6 NHL talent.

  • The cost of Aquisition and talent is too high for either, I’d be fine with either as a Ranger but we would have to lose Zib and another high salary and they all have NTCs anyways.

    Hopefully Zib gets back on his game he just looks winded and not himself.

  • “As a writer and hockey fan, I’m doing more to understand advanced stats so I can understand the game better.”
    I think the problem with most bloggers is that they all treat advanced stats as a be all/ end all. As an NHL coach recently stated, he treats them as “info”….
    People have gotten carried away. Good advanced stats don’t always translate into wins, as Rangers have shown.

    • Nobody was suggesting that. But they’re a useful tool for analyzing players beyond plus/minus and points.

    • What Russ was saying is he wants to expand how he evaluates the game to include the advanced stats. What’s the problem with that?

  • As much as either one is better than any center the Rangers have, wouldn’t trading Chytil to a great extent defeat the purpose? The team would be back to having no center depth, especially with Mika getting older and often injured. Trade from surplus of wingers and dmen and build a better balanced team.

    • I think a lot of the trade cost will be determined by what direction Buffalo wants to go in. If they want to rebuild on the fly, then Chytil might need to be included. If they want to blow it up, then they may want just futures.

  • Chytil (top-6 center next year), Buch (top 6 2 way RW), Lundkvist (best D prospect of the last few years, potential top pair RD for the next decade), Schneider (top prospect) + 1st round pick for Eichel?? Thanks but no thanks. Risk the future backbone of the team fort just 1 guy (albeit world class) that will eat up 10 M a year? Not for me. Pass. Pass.

  • The Panthers are in one of the top spots in their division and looking like a serious contender. In no world would trading their best player make sense

    • To further your point, which is a good one, Florida core revolves around

      Barkov / Huberdeau / Ekblad

      No reason to think any of those three are going anywhere.

      Fun thought exercise, but other than age, production and acquisition costs the similiarities between Barkov and Eichel end. Situationally they and their teams are polar opposites

  • Again, the Rangers do not need another expensive new toy…hasn’t 30 years of utter failure not sunk in with you guys…baffling.

    How many high priced acquisitions/free agents have the Bruins added to their team over the years? The Av’s?, etc…

    The Rangers are in the top ten for horrible UFA’s signings several times…

    The Rangers are always trading talent away because they can’t afford to resign them…Miller, McDonagh, Hayes, Dubi, Cally…because we had bloated contracts…i.e Nash, Richards, Girardi, Staal, Hank

    The Rangers don’t have to draft guys who play with an edge because they are easy to come by…right, then you have to sign Tanner Glass & Donald Brasher

    Good teams build from the draft out…now that we have pieces we want to trade away Kappo, Laffy, Robertson, Barron, Krastov, Chytil, Schneider away because we need more.

    I guess you guys enjoy always being good enough to never win.

  • The letter and rebuild happened for a reason. Slats and JG saw an old team, an underachieving team, a team constantly trading for older players trying to grab the cup and falling short and most glaringly an overpaid team.
    In other words terrible management. Again, as grandma would say…the fish stinks from the head down. Now that the team almost has all the ingredients to be a powerful club lets trade 4-5 young cost effective and controlled contracts for one biggie. Terrible. If the biggie gets hurt, with a NMC, what do you do? Cry? JD and JG have got to have the patience they have been preaching. I personally think there are better coaches available …but…DQ has begun IMO to get it. Maybe, and I hope, the team finds itself. If it isnt a good hockey trade….like Mikas’ just pass. This draft….centers only and who in Europe is becoming a free agent? Thats how the Breadman got to the NHL right?
    There are options and the more the team bends, the easier it is to buy a bridge.

  • Stats are fine…the area where you don’t comment is a hypothetical comparison between the two as playoff players versus regular season players. The second season requires additional qualities. Who has more of those qualities?

  • I have a strong feeling that it’s inevitable that Eichel gets traded here. For actually 2 reasons:

    1. We have an abundance of wingers and prospects some which won’t get a chance to play here.
    2. Getting Eichel eliminates and alleviates the FO decision to sign Zib who has a history of concussions and injuries. Plus giving him 8-9 million per at his age may not be a good idea.

    But I’m skeptical of the so-called “savior” trades as the Barry Beck and Lindros trades did not deliver in the past. But the Messier trade did… Eichel is NOT Messier.

  • I believe that Barkov is unlikely to be available. Fine player, but I think Florida is going to retain him.

    Eichel is a wonderful player. Good at every aspect of the game. But, so expensive when you have Panarin and Trouba and Kreider under long term deals, and will need to pay some of the young talent coming off their ELCs soon. Also, if you go for Eichel, and can’t afford Zibanejad, then you have not actually increased your center depth, you’ve just replaced Zibby.

    Now, Zibanejad’s next contract will be expensive, but not as expensive as Eichel’s current deal. The advantage of Eichel, besides his talent, is that he is also 3 years younger than Zibanejad. But, the acquisition cost for Eichel is going to be huge with the Rangers losing a lot of good young talent and picks. It seems it might more sense to retain Mika unless the acquisition cost for Eichel comes down, which I doubt is going to happen.

    Altogether, I think that I’d try to find that young, less expensive center to challenge Chytil and Strome for the 2C role, while retaining Zibanejad (who will be expensive but not $10 million per year.)

  • Who ever mentioned LA, I am with you. Unfortunately Byfield is out. If I am Rob Blake–no way I trade him. But Turcotte, Thomas and Vilardi are interesting. Kupari seems a little risky as he has struggled in the AHL.

    If the Rangers have elite D and goaltending with great wingers and alright centers, is that enough to get it done?

    Oh, I heard LA has this Lias kid–high end draft pick. I imagine he’s pretty good!

      • I hear that. But as one piece in a body of work–there’s too much upside to part just yet. I would think.

        The draft, covid–blah, blah, blah–there is enough that I give him a pass for one turny. If this becomes a trend–LA could of had Tim Stützle. Ouch!

  • When one of the best young Centers in the game is available you go after them! Plain and simple. Especially when you have an over abundance of top prospects waiting in the wings. Where are all of these kids going to play?
    Last I checked you can only use 12 forwards, 6D, and two goalies per game.
    How do Robertson, Jones, Schneider , Lundqvist, and Reunanen fit on a crowded blue line?
    Where do Kravstov, Pajuniemi, Barron and many others play on a youthful and deep team?
    Part of rebuilding is using your expendable assets to make the team better.
    I get the salary cap situation, but with all of the youth on the team it’s certainly manageable.
    Trading for a young superstar like Eichel accelerates the rebuild and puts the Rangers in contention as soon as next year. What’s not to like about that?

    • Was Trouba one of the best young RH dmen available two years ago?

      Didn’t we go after him? How has that worked out.

      Eichel is a very good player, who happens to be very expensive in terms of cap hit and the cost to acquire him.

      • I wouldn’t say that Trouba was one of the BEST young Dmen when the Rangers traded for him.
        He filled a need as a tough , physical defenseman with great leadership qualities.
        Unfortunately, he has been jerked around with new D partners every other week.
        I get that Pionk is having another fine season, but he doesn’t fill the need that the Rangers had

    • I get that. However, do they need Eichel? I am torn. Would be happy to have him, won’t be sad if they don’t get him. Tampa just won without an elite center. Their centers played really well and are good players but none are in the same class as Eichel, Barkov, etc.

      You are 100% correct. Rangers will have to use some of these young prospects to make trades for the current team. A stud center makes the most sense.

      I would not be surprised if Seattle makes a play for Eichel and surprises everyone.

      • You owe Brayden Point a little bit more credit. He is arguably the best player top to bottom on that team (Kucherov and Hedman) included.

        • Agree 100%. Just see him as a step below Eichel. But would take Point in a heartbeat. No questions asked.

  • This could be the player that puts us over the top. I would include Zibby in any deal as we need to improve up and down the center position. We need to be careful not to include a Kakko or LaFren in these types of deals. Zibby, Kraftsov and a first rounder.

    • Agree. But unless Buffalo feels they can immediately flip Mika for more picks/prospects from another team–he might be too old for the Sabers.

  • Neither.
    I understand the temptation for going after one of the best young centers in the league. I do, and certainly you can make a case for just that. Many here have.
    But at what cost? Buffalo will not give him away.
    There is a lot to be said for a team growing together and the “rebuild” is allowing us to do just that.
    Last year we had Zib performing as one of the best centers in the whole NHL. We still were embarrassed by Carolina. Does giving up a king’s ransom for either of these truly great players makes sense? Not to me.
    When a team is a couple of players away from a real shot at the SC, then you fill those specific needs as we did before the 94 Cup win.
    We have one of the best players in the league in Panarin, who performed outstanding playing on the wing of a good center, but not a great center.
    When one factors in the cost of acquiring either of these fantastic players in the players and picks we will most certainly have to give up, cost in dollars and cap space. It just doesn’t make sense to me.
    We have a bunch of young players who if develop as it looks like they will, are going to cost a heck of a lot of money in the near future.

  • Why does everyone want to put nils in a trade sonario. What happens if he becomes a star before you can even see what he can do in the NHL . I’d want to give him a shot before I trade him off

  • Kravtsov, Buch, Robertson our #1 and maybe anther lower pick or prospect for Eichel doesn’t tear apart the team yet gives us the leader and elite C we need.

  • Kravtsov, Buch, Robertson, our #1 and maybe another lower draft pick or prospect for Eichel doesn’t tear apart the team yet gives us the leader and elite C we need.

    • This works. Giving up Nils seems crazy. I think he could be as good, maybe even better, than Fox. If that is true, waiting for him to show what he can do and then trading one of him or Fox will get a greater return as well.

  • Eichel is less than a ppg for his career despite his prevalent PP time and status as the 1C. He’s never broken 82 points and topped 30 goals once. That said I would still like him on the Rangers but some of the trade suggestions are a little over the top. And definitely Fox, Laf, Kakko, Miller and maybe Nils (maybe not) are off the table.

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