Star center Jack Eichel cast doubt on his future with the Buffalo Sabres during his end-of-season exit interview with the media Monday, saying a disagreement with the franchise about how to treat a herniated disk in his neck has been “tough” for him to navigate.
“For sure, I would say I’ve been a bit upset about the way that things have been handled since I’ve been hurt,” Eichel said. “I’d be lying to say that things have moved smoothly since my injury. So yeah, there’s been a bit of a disconnect from the organization a bit and myself. It’s been tough at times.
“Right now, I think for me the most important thing is just trying to get healthy and figure out a way to be available to play hockey next year, wherever that might be.”
Eichel, the Sabres’ captain and 2015 second overall draft pick, was already the subject of trade rumors as Buffalo finished in the cellar of the NHL in 2021 (15-34-7, 37 points). Saying “wherever that might be” when discussing playing next season will only serve to fuel that fire, but there have been no reports that Eichel has asked the Sabres for a trade.
Eichel, 24, suffered his neck injury on March 7 when he was on the receiving end of a hit by the New York Islanders’ Casey Cizikas. Eichel told reporters he would prefer to undergo surgery, but the team hasn’t signed off on that idea.
“I’m under contract with this team and they definitely hold a lot of cards on what I can and can’t do,” Eichel said.
Eichel added that he is also still recovering from an “unresolved” abdominal injury and a rib fracture he suffered before the season.
The American only made 21 appearances in the pandemic-abridged, 56-game 2020-21 season. He tallied two goals and 16 assists with a career-worst 3.3 percent shooting percentage.
In his six-year NHL career, Eichel has 355 points (139 goals, 216 assists) in 375 games for Buffalo. He was named to the All-Star Game for three straight years from 2018 to 2020. But the Sabres have never reached the playoffs during Eichel’s time in town.
–Field Level Media