“There’s been a bit of a disconnect from the organization a bit and myself. It’s been tough at times,” Eichel said in his exit interview with members of the media on Monday. “Right now, I think for me the most important thing is just trying to get healthy and figure out a way to be available to play hockey next year wherever that might be.”
Eichel, 24, said he prefers to have surgery on his herniated disk but suggested the team is considering other courses of treatment. When asked if he has the final say on treatment methods, he added that the Sabres are included in the decision.
“It doesn’t work like that. I wish. … I’m under contract with this team and they definitely hold a lot of cards on what I can and can’t do,” Eichel said.
Eichel hasn’t played since March 7 after a hit by New York Islanders forward Casey Cizikas injured his neck. Then-coach Ralph Krueger stated at the time that Eichel would be out for the “foreseeable future” but was ruled out for the remainder of the season a week later.
Eichel had just two goals and 16 assists in 21 games this season. He picked up an assist to extend his point streak to four games in the last game he played.
How likely is Eichel to be a Sabre at the start of next season?
John Vogl, Sabres beat writer: Buffalo will need a new captain. The bridge between Eichel and the Sabres is engulfed in flames, and it’s hard to imagine it’ll be salvaged. Eichel has been a fitness freak since his teen years, and he’s furious the team is telling him what he can and can’t do with his body. The trust is shattered. And that’s just one angle. Add in six seasons without even a sniff of the playoffs and Eichel is clearly ready to move on. He’s as good as gone.
What could Eichel fetch in return if he were moved?
Vogl: There’s been no shortage of Eichel trade proposals since last summer when the Sabres began getting calls about his availability. The suggestions usually range from insulting to laughable. The last time Eichel was healthy, he finished eighth in Hart Trophy voting. The 24-year-old’s skills make him a top-10 player in the NHL. A viable return would have to include a first-line center, at least one top prospect and multiple draft picks. Odds are good the Sabres lose any trade, but those three assets would at least make it close.
What teams would be at the top of the list for Eichel’s services?
Sean Gentille, Pittsburgh senior writer: The list goes “Rangers, then everyone else.” They were already the top candidate — the possibility of an Eichel trade has been percolating for months — and last week’s events only add fuel to the fire. A premier market, an impatient owner, a solid young team that needs a star center and has the prospect base necessary to get something done … yep, that makes a whole lot of sense.
The Kings have ammo, too, but the discussion begins and ends with New York. Something worth noting, though, is that Eichel’s no-movement clause doesn’t kick in until the 2022 offseason — so the offers can come from anywhere.