Jack Eichel Says He's 'Been a Bit Upset' at How Sabres Handled Neck Injury

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistMay 10, 2021

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (9) skates during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Washington Capitals, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in Washington. The Capitals won 3-1. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Nick Wass/Associated Press

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel has been out since March with a herniated disk in his neck that prematurely ended his season, and he doesn't like how the team has treated him following his injury. 

"I've been a bit upset about the ways things have been handled since I've been hurt," Eichel said Monday. "There's been a bit of a disconnect between myself and the organization. The most important thing now is to get healthy and be ready to play hockey next year, wherever that might be."

Eichel explained that the organization wouldn't let him get surgery, per John Vogl of The Athletic.

"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."

The 24-year-old is under contract through 2026 after signing an eight-year, $80 million contract extension, but his future with the team is suddenly uncertain.

"I have a lot of thinking to do in this offseason," Eichel said. "I think that there's a lot that I have to consider. But for now, obviously, I'm here."

When the team announced in April that Eichel would miss the rest of the season with the injury, general manager Kevyn Adams indicated the initial plan was to avoid surgery.

"The course of treatment was to rehab it and give it some time to see if the disk had moved back to where the doctors were comfortable, and then the hope was that he could jump back in and play," Adams said.

Adams did not reveal if there was a plan to have surgery going forward in order to prepare him for the future.

"We all want him back on the ice, [one] hundred percent healthy, and we all feel that will happen at the start of training camp next year," he added.

If Eichel does want to play somewhere else next season, there will likely be plenty of interest based on what the young player has showed while healthy. The 2015 No. 2 overall draft pick had at least 50 points in each of his first five years, peaking with 82 in 2018-19.

The center was at his best in 2019-20 with 36 goals and 42 assists in 68 games, earning votes for the Hart Trophy despite playing for a team that missed the playoffs. The Sabres will miss the playoffs for the 10th straight season this year and currently have the worst record in the NHL.

It could be time for the two sides to part ways, helping the player get a fresh start while helping Buffalo rebuild.

According to Eric Duhatschek of The Athletic, the Rangers made a "hard push" for Eichel last offseason but couldn't complete a deal.