After a few explosive media availabilities with Rasmus Ristolainen, Sam Reinhart, and others this morning, Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel poured some gas on the offseason hot stove. The star forward not only left open the idea of a trade, but suggested to reporters including John Vogl of The Athletic that he and the Sabres cannot agree on the best way to treat his neck injury. Eichel suffered a herniated disk and explained that it’s not only up to him on whether to have surgery:
It doesn’t work like that. I wish. …I’m under contract with this team and they definitely hold a lot of cards on what I can and can’t do.
Eichel, 24, played just 21 games this season, scoring two goals and 18 points. It was by far the most disappointing season he has had from a production standpoint, but the outcome for the Sabres—finishing last—has become far too familiar. Despite Eichel’s strong offense throughout the early part of his career, he is now six seasons in without suiting up for a single playoff game.
Though there will be teams interested in acquiring Eichel, a trade involving a player like him is not easy. He has five more years under contract and carries a $10MM cap hit, tied for the 11th-highest number in the NHL. If he is also going to get surgery on his neck at some point, that makes a trade all the riskier for any acquiring team.
The New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings have been listed as the most likely candidates in the past, given how many young assets they have gathered over the last few years. Serious interest has never been confirmed though and there are likely to be other teams that get involved if Eichel is put on the market.
An Eichel trade has been the story for the last several offseasons in Buffalo, but after the disastrous 2021-22 campaign, seems more likely than ever to actually come to fruition. Now it’s up to GM Kevyn Adams to somehow navigate the minefield of an unhappy franchise icon, hire a full-time coach, and somehow put the Sabres back on the right track.