Eichel’s rift with Sabres deepens in contradicting GM Adams

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Jack Eichel’s representatives released a statement Friday night saying “the process is not working,” in further opening a deepening rift between the Buffalo Sabres captain and the team.

In an email to The Associated Press, agents Peter Fish and Peter Donatelli contradicted general manager Kevyn Adams by saying the Sabres went against their own medical staff’s recommendation in determining artificial disk replacement surgery was required to repair a herniated disk that sidelined the player for the final two months of the season.

The agents also wrote they fully anticipated Eichel would be traded before the start of the NHL’s free agency period, which opened on Wednesday.

They noted Eichel would be in a position to be ready for the start of the regular season should he be cleared to have surgery, and added: “Repeated requests have been made to the Sabres since early June to no avail. This process is stopping Jack from playing in the NHL and it is not working.”

The Sabres declined to respond.

The agents’ statement comes a day after Adams discussed Eichel’s status during a news conference to update the state of the team following the start of free agency.

Adams said there was no change from the Sabres medical staff in recommending against Eichel having a procedure which has never been performed on an NHL player. He then added, the Sabres are in control of Eichel’s future because he remains under contract and he doesn’t feel any pressure to complete a trade.

“If there’s a deal out there that we feel is the right thing for the Buffalo Sabres, that we feel will help us improve … we’d be open to it,” Adams said. “We’re not in position where we feel that we’re just going to do something to do it. That doesn’t make any sense.”

The feud between the Sabres and Eichel continues to escalate since the captain revealed in May what he called “a disconnect” with the team over how to treat the injury. He said the disagreement was leading him to question his future with the team.

The two sides had agreed to put off the possibility of surgery until early June to see if the injury would heal on its own through rehabilitation. Eichel’s agents disagree with the Sabres with what happened once that deadline passed.

“After the agreed upon and prescribed period for conservative rehabilitation lapsed, it was determined by the Sabres medical staff that a surgical procedure was required,” the agents wrote. “Our camp was under the impression that the Sabres specialist was in agreement with the artificial disc replacement surgery until that was no longer the case.”

Eichel is the face of the franchise and has five years left on an eight-year, $80 million contract.

Adams had not ruled out trading Eichel since the middle of March, and has spent the past month openly acknowledging he is shopping the player.

Adams is overseeing a major overhaul of a team that finished last in the standings for the fourth time in eight seasons and in the midst of an NHL record-matching 10-year playoff drought. He’s focused on rebuilding the team with youth and purging players who no longer desire to play in Buffalo.

The turnover began last weekend, when Buffalo traded defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to Philadelphia and forward Sam Reinhart to Florida in separate deals made a day apart.

In failing to trade Eichel, Adams on Thursday said he wouldn’t consider it to be a distraction if the captain was still on the team come the start of training camp.

“I’m not worried about distraction. I’m worried about doing what’s right for the Buffalo Sabres,” Adams said. “That’s why I take the emotion out of it, look at what’s best for us moving forward. And if there’s something that makes sense, we’ll do it.”

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.