The question no longer seems to be if Jack Eichel will be traded away from the Buffalo Sabres, but when.
A franchise going nowhere has wasted the talents of the six-year veteran, finishing with the worst record in the NHL as their 10-year playoff drought continued.
Eichel was taken second overall in the 2015 NHL Draft and has largely lived up to a majority of the high expectations placed upon him. However, the Sabres have done little to surround him with a legitimate supporting cast.
That was already a sizable indictment on the franchise, but the way they handled an injury that limited him to 21 games this season.
Eichel wants to undergo surgery for a herniated disk in his neck but the Sabres aren’t letting that happen, which is only increasing the divide between star and organization.
“I would say I’ve been a bit upset about the way that things have been handled since I’ve been hurt,” Eichel said after the season. “I’d be lying to say that things have moved smoothly since my injury. So yeah, I think that there’s been a bit of a disconnect from the organization a bit and myself. It’s been tough at times.”
Those comments only got more raw.
“Listen, my No. 1 interest is Jack Eichel, you know what I mean? You have to look at yourself,” he said. “The organization has a similar job to do, which is to look out for what’s best for the Buffalo Sabres. It’s tough. Things haven’t been, I guess, really black and white. We’re all trying to educate ourselves in this situation and what would be best moving forward.
“There’s been some tough conversations. But I have to do what’s best for me. I’m only going to play hockey for so long. I’m 24 years old. Hopefully, I have many years in this amazing game left. But I have to take care of myself. It’s been tough at times. But I’ll come out on the other side of this.”
Naturally, that won’t help his standing with any of his teammates, either.
“I’m friends with [him] and I’ve enjoyed my time playing with him for sure,” center Casey Mittelstadt said about Eichel’s comments. “I have nothing but good things to say about [Eichel]. Like I said, it’s out of my control but it’s definitely tough to hear.”
While Eichel attempts to burn bridges, Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams seems largely unaffected.
“We all want the same thing when it comes to Jack Eichel’s health. We want Eichel to be healthy and playing on top of his game,” Adams said. “He’s the captain of our team. He’s a great hockey player. I enjoy Jack. Where we go from here, nothing’s going to change for me personally.”
That’s not stopping the sportsbooks from starting their speculation on where Eichel will end up next — and it’s not good news for any Flyers fans who were holding out hope that Chuck Fletcher could swoop in and pull off a blockbuster:
Jack Eichel’s next team odds
|New York Rangers||+170|
|Los Angeles Kings||+400|
|Detroit Red Wings||+600|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||+800|