Jack Eichel may be hate-listening to Taylor Swift these days when thinking of the Sabres. “We are never ever, ever getting back together,” she sings, and — while there have been trade rumors for weeks — it’s clearer now that’s exactly where things are heading.
Late Friday night, Eichel’s agents Peter Fish and Peter Donatelli released a damning statement regarding the relationship between their client and the Sabres:
“The process is not working. As previously stated, we fully anticipated a trade by the start of the NHL free agency period,” it states. Free agency began on Wednesday, July 28. “After the agreed upon and prescribed period for conservative rehabilitation lapsed in early June 2021, it was determined by the Sabres medical staff that a surgical procedure was required.”
Eichel was diagnosed with a herniated disc after hitting his head on the boards against the Islanders on March 7. He missed the final 33 games of the season. The statement says Eichel was comfortable with having Artificial Disc Replacement surgery, which was recommended by an independent neurosurgeon and other spine specialists consulted. It also noted that they thought the Sabres were in agreement, “until that was no longer the case.”
Elliotte Friedman reported in mid-June that the team was ready to part ways with its captain. That came out a few weeks after Eichel, speaking to reporters at his end-of-season availability, said there is a “disconnect” between him and the club.
“I’ve been a bit upset about the ways things have been handled since I’ve been hurt,” he said via Zoom. “I’d be lying to say that things have moved smoothly since my injury. There’s been a bit of a disconnect between myself and the organization. It’s been tough at times. Right now, for me, the most important thing is just trying to get healthy, figure out a way to be available to play hockey next year, wherever that might be.”
At the time, he was asked why he didn’t just get the surgery on his own. He replied that, “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.”
Selected second overall by the Sabres in the 2015 NHL Draft, Eichel has notched 355 points (139 goals, 216 assists) in 375 games with the franchise. One of the most highly coveted centers in the game, he does come with a cap hit of $10 million.
On Friday, his agents stressed that they believe the actions of the Sabres are hindering his ability to continue his career in any capacity.
“What is being left out of the discussion is that Jack would be able to play in the NHL for the start of the season pending medical clearance if he were allowed to have the surgery he desires even as of this date. 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.”