After finally being traded to the Golden Knights, Jack Eichel made the media rounds, discussing his future — but also how things ended with the Sabres.
For the most part, Eichel stuck to the script. Both with Sportsnet and ESPN, Eichel kept things pretty civil. He thanked the Golden Knights for allowing him to go with his preferred neck surgery option (disk replacement instead of fusion). Eichel thanked the city of Buffalo, and Sabres fans, for his time with the team.
But every now and then, you got a hint of the raw, very human feelings involved.
Eichel happy to end Sabres trade drama, play for Golden Knights — and in Olympics?
Some of Eichel’s most animated moments happened in his interview with Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. About five minutes into the video above, Eichel said he wasn’t going to get into the Sabres’ opinion about fusion over disk replacement surgery.
The most fun moment, though, came when Eichel could barely contain his excitement about becoming “a hockey player again” with the Golden Knights. Friedman painted a picture of the Golden Knights’ pre-game show. Eichel suiting up for them, and wearing one of those golden helmets.
One interesting idea is that Eichel’s hoping he can recover from neck surgery in time to play for the U.S. team in the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Jack Eichel told @Buccigross a goal of his is to play in the Olympics. Said post-operation he’s expecting a three-month recovery and he wants the surgery “pretty soon.”
— Justin Emerson (@J15Emerson) November 4, 2021
That seems like a bold aim. But maybe Eichel feels the need to make up for lost time.
As Eichel told Friedman and others, he didn’t like the idea of the Sabres following a failed rebuild with another one. When Eichel said that to Sabres management, it didn’t go over well. Interestingly, Eichel wonders if those feelings carried over to his preference for a trade, and route to getting surgery.
[Eichel trade closes chapter of failed Sabres rebuild]
More than once, Eichel spoke about the trade process dragging on. He regrets how much played out in the media, and you get the sense that Twitter trolls and other critics sometimes bothered him.
(Oh, Eichel also interestingly thought he could get traded to the Wild. The Avalanche struck him as a possibility, too. Someone contact Dr. Strange to run down how those scenarios would’ve played out.)
Ultimately, the Eichel trade/surgery process took longer than just about anyone expected. It’s tough to imagine it not costing Eichel an Olympic appearance — though he’s hoping to participate. And it’s true that the process isn’t over. Eichel still needs surgery, and it remains to be seen if he’ll bounce back from that to become the star he’s been even during Buffalo’s lows.
And the Golden Knights likely need to answer some salary cap questions with Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and Eichel all needing to fit.
All that aside, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t blame Eichel if that light at the end of the tunnel looks, to him, like one of those garish Golden Knights helmets.
Here’s Eichel with ESPN’s John Buccigross, as well:
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.