Jack Eichel spoke to the media on Monday afternoon and set the stage for what could be a fascinating offseason between him and the Sabres.
If nothing else, it at least created some doubt as to what his future with the organization might be.
Eichel said there is a “disconnect” between him and the team revolving around the handling his neck injury that sidelined him for most of the 2020-21 NHL season.
Eichel said he has been upset at the way things have been handled since the injury put him out for the final 33 games of the season. The central part of the disconnect revolves around the fact Eichel wanted to have surgery on his neck, while the team has not moved forward with that approach.
“I’d be lying to say that things have moved smoothly since my injury,” said Eichel on Monday. “There’s been a bit of a disconnect between myself and the organization. It’s been tough at times. 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.”
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The “wherever that might be” line is a strong statement considering he is still under contract for another five seasons on a deal that carries a $10M salary cap hit. That contract includes a no-movement clause that will kick in before the 2022-23 season. His name was already floating in trade speculation during the season, and this will do nothing to calm those waters going into the offseason. That response from Eichel was to a question that directly asked him if he wanted to remain as part of the solution in Buffalo or if he wanted to move on.
Eichel was asked why he simply did not get the surgery on his own, to which he responded: “It doesn’t work like that. I wish. I’m under contract with this team, and they hold a lot of cards on what I can and can’t do.”
This situation, combined with Buffalo’s inability to build a winner around Eichel (their playoff drought is now at 10 consecutive seasons) seems like a volatile mix going into an offseason where the Sabres could be looking at even more significant change.
“I think I have a lot of thinking to do this offseason,” said Eichel. “I think there’s a lot that I have to consider. But for now, obviously, I’m here. I’m the captain of this hockey team and my goal is to be available and to try and help the guys in the room and to help this organization win hockey games. I’ll continue to do that as long as I’m here.”
The only question that remains now is how long he will be there.