After yet another disappointing season that ended without playoff hockey in Buffalo for the 10th straight year, it seems the Sabres are headed toward an off-season just as tense after captain Jack Eichel spoke publicly about his disconnect with the organization Monday.
Sidelined since early March due to a herniated disc in his neck, Eichel spoke out on about how the injury has been dealt with by the club.
“I’ve been a bit upset about the way things have been handled since I’ve been hurt. I’d be lying to say that things have moved smoothly since my injury,” he said, according to ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski.
“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 now is to try to get healthy, figure out a way to be available to play hockey next year, wherever that might be.”
Specifically, the Sabres centreman suggested that there has been disagreement between he and the club regarding whether or not he should have surgery to repair the neck injury:
Three years into an eight-year extension that carries an average annual value of $10 million — with a no-move clause that doesn’t kick in until the end of next season — the captain’s comments fuelled questions of whether a split from Buffalo is on the horizon.
While Eichel didn’t confirm whether he’s requested a trade from the organization that drafted him second overall back in 2015, he did comment on whether he feels the Sabres would grant such a request if he made one.
“I gotta do what’s best for me, but they gotta do what’s best for them. It’s like any other business. And I understand that,” he said. “If you asked any NHL player, they’d be on the same page: You have to do what’s best for the organization, but you also have to do what’s best for you.”
Eichel has been the Sabres’ leading scorer every season since 2016-17, putting up 36 goals and 78 points in just 68 games last season.
The 24-year-old posted 18 points in 21 games this season before the injury derailed his campaign. With what appeared to be a promising off-season — highlighted by the signing of marquee free agent Taylor Hall, traded to the Boston Bruins at the deadline — resulting in yet another early summer, questions about Eichel’s future in Buffalo don’t appear set to die down any time soon.
“I have a lot of thinking to do in this off-season,” he said Monday. “I think that there’s a lot that I have to consider. But for now, obviously, I’m here.”