There was no story talked about more in the hockey community this offseason than the messy situation between the Buffalo Sabres and Jack Eichel. It is clear that the two sides are going to go in different directions, but when that is going to happen remains very unclear.
The Sabres needing to trade Eichel became evident during the 24-year-old’s end-of-season press conference, where he said he was excited to play the 2021-22 season “wherever that may be” and made many other comments that made it sound like he was hoping to be dealt. Since that day, it has been clear that the team has been looking to move him, though doing so hasn’t been easy.
The main reason for this animosity between Eichel and the Sabres stems from a neck injury he sustained during the 2020-21 season, one in which the two parties have different ideas on how to fix. The Sabres want him to get fusion surgery, which could cause him to miss at least six months. Eichel wants to undergo a disk replacement surgery instead, which has never been conducted before on an NHL player but would allow him to return to the ice much sooner.
With the ongoing situation, Eichel has been unable to have any surgery, meaning he will miss at least some of the 2021-22 season. Due to ongoing concerns regarding his injury, teams have failed to meet the Sabres’ asking price. This situation has become very ugly, to the point that many, including Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner, have called out the Sabres organization for how they have handled things. With how much negative publicity this has gotten them, they can do only one thing now.
Sabres Have to Lower Asking Price
General manager (GM) Kevyn Adams is in an extremely tough situation here. He can’t be blamed for the team’s failures, given that he only got hired back in June of 2020. However, many figured the Eichel trade would be his first test as an NHL GM. Unfortunately for him, it is one he was always in tough to win, and one now that is simply impossible to.
According to several sources, the Sabres asking price at one point in the summer was a top-six centerman who was 25 or younger, along with a top-four defenceman 25 or younger, and a first-round pick as well as a number of prospects. While Adams can’t be blamed for the astronomical asking price, he needs to lower it now, and by a lot.
While this won’t make Sabres fans happy, Adams is best off to move Eichel for whatever the best current offer he has. The entire situation has become a significant distraction for the team as they prepare to head into the 2021-22 season and will only have a negative impact on the franchise the longer it lasts.
As mentioned, this isn’t the news Sabres fans want to hear and is something they will probably get upset by. That is very understandable, given that back in 2015, when they drafted Eichel with the second overall pick, he was viewed as the franchise’s savior and one that would turn the team around. As we know now, that never came close to happening, as management failed to build anything remotely close to a competitive team around the star centerman.
Several Teams Interested in Eichel
Despite a deal not yet coming about, it isn’t for lack of interest. In fact, according to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, both the Anaheim Ducks and Calgary Flames have continued to inquire about Eichel’s services, while the Los Angeles Kings, Golden Knights, New York Rangers, Minnesota Wild, and even the Philadelphia Flyers have shown interest in recent months.
It goes without saying, but obviously, the interested teams have not yet met the Sabres’ asking price, given that a deal has not yet been made. At this point, however, this situation just needs to end, not only for the sake of Eichel but the organization as well. This entire process is only damaging their reputation and will continue to do so until a trade happens. They need to move him and then prepare to go through a rebuild once again, and hopefully, do this one correctly.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Oil On Whyte, NHLtradetalk.com, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.