Is the Jack Eichel era in Buffalo nearing an end?
Trade rumors have surrounded the star center over the last two years as the Sabres have struggled to approach anything resembling relevance. Eichel, who signed a lucrative contract extension in 2017, all along has maintained his commitment to the Sabres, but sang a different tune Monday morning.
The 24-year-old missed Buffalo’s final 33 games of the season due to a neck injury. While speaking with reporters Monday, Eichel revealed friction between he and the Sabres over the injury, and also acknowledged the possibility of playing elsewhere next season.
“I’ve been a bit upset about the ways things have been handled since I’ve been hurt,” Eichel told reporters, via ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski. “I’d be lying to say that things have moved smoothly since my injury. There’s been a bit of a disconnect between myself and the organization. It’s been tough at times.
“Right now, for me, the most important thing is just trying to get healthy, figure out a way to be available to play hockey next year, wherever that might be.”
Eichel has dealt with — and played through — multiple injuries in recent seasons. When asked why he has forgone procedures and treatments he might have needed, Eichel offered the following:
“It doesn’t work like that. I wish. I’m under contract with this team, and they hold a lot of cards on what I can and can’t do.
” … Listen, my No. 1 interest is Jack Eichel, you know what I mean? You gotta look after yourself. You gotta look after what’s best for yourself. The organization has a similar job to do, which is to look out for what’s best for the Buffalo Sabres. It’s tough. Things haven’t been, I guess, really black and white. We’re all trying to educate ourselves in this situation and what would be best moving forward. There’s been some tough conversations. But I have to do what’s best for me. I’m only going to play hockey for so long. I’m 24 years old. Hopefully I have many more good years in this amazing game left. But I have to take care of myself. It’s been tough at times. But I’ll come out on the other end of it.”
When healthy, Eichel is among the very best players in the NHL. The 2015 No. 2 overall pick is signed through the 2025-26 campaign and has a full no-movement clause that kicks in after next season.
Eichel racked up only two goals and 16 assists over 21 games this season. He averaged 27.4 goals and 40 assists per season over the previous five campaigns.