The 2020 offseason was an active one for the Buffalo Sabres with their major overhauls in the front office and a couple other moves ahead of the 2020-21 season.
With new general manager Kevyn Adams in office, it appears as though other teams are doing their due diligence by calling the Sabres to ask about the availability of some of their players on the roster.
According to TSN hockey insider Bob McKenzie, one Sabres player who has been asked about by other teams in trade chatter is captain Jack Eichel. McKenzie tweeted on Monday that the New York Rangers were among some teams believed to be interested in the 23-year-old center.
McKenzie did proceed to explain the reasoning behind his first tweet that had piqued the interest of many Sabres and hockey fans alike.
As he stated, the Sabres reportedly expressed zero interest in trading Eichel, but since Adams is new in his role with the team, other clubs have called asking about Eichel’s availability. McKenzie also noted that none of the trade talks with the Sabres and other teams resulted in any trade traction.
McKenzie also added that he believes that the Sabres and Eichel have had dialogue this offseason to ensure that both sides “want the same thing (to get better obviously) and share the same timetable (sooner rather than later).”
Adams has mentioned a couple of times this offseason that he has had some discussions with Eichel and that they were in the process of getting to know each other and build a relationship with one another.
Back in late May when speaking with the Buffalo media, Eichel had expressed his frustrations with losing and the struggles that the team faced in his time with the Sabres. However, he did not mention at any point that he wanted a trade out of Buffalo.
“Listen, I’m fed up with the losing and I’m fed up that I’m frustrated. It’s definitely not an easy pill to swallow right now,” Eichel said. “It’s been a tough couple months, it’s been a tough five years with where things have went. I’m a competitor. I want to win every time I’m on the ice. I want to win the Stanley Cup every time I start a season. I’ve already started preparing for next season now. I’m already back on the ice, I’m already training, I’m already doing things to try and better myself for start of next season, whenever that is. I’d be lying if I said that I’m not getting frustrated with where things are going. I think we took a step this year… but yeah, I’m definitely not in the greatest place with where the last little bit went. It’s definitely worn on me.”
According to Eichel’s agent Peter Fish, who spoke with McKenzie, he said, “I hear that [trade talk] a lot. Jack wants to win, he’s frustrated [not winning] but, no, he doesn’t want out. Jack is preparing to head to Buffalo at some point here and prepare for the season, whenever that may be. That’s all he controls.”
Eichel continued to play at an All-Star level for the Sabres this past season with a career-high 36 goals, while also averaging the highest points-per-game average (1.15) in his career. He missed just one game in the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season, and still managed to put up 78 points in that span, while setting a pace of 93 points. He ended up finishing in eighth place for voting for the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player.
In his five years with the Sabres since being the second overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, Eichel has scored a total of 137 goals and amassed 200 assists for 337 points in 354 games. However, the one thing that remains missing from his resume is an appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The closest the Sabres have come to a playoff appearance was in his rookie season in 2015-16 when Buffalo finished with a 35-36-11 record, 81 points and a seventh place finish in the Atlantic Division standings.
This past season saw Buffalo get out to a hot start for a second-consecutive season, but end up faltering down the stretch and finishing with a 30-31-8 record in 69 games, 68 points, a sixth place finish in the division and a 25th place finish in the standings. The end result got general manager Jason Botterill fired along with a large number of his staff in the front office and the coaching ranks.
Eichel was signed to an eight-year contract extension worth $80 million just before the start of the 2017-18 season. He currently has six-year remaining on his deal before becoming an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2026.