The Buffalo Sabres opened their training camp on Thursday, but the beginning of the franchise’s 51st season was overshadowed by the news regarding center Jack Eichel. GM Kevyn Adams revealed that Eichel failed a team physical due to a herniated disc in his neck and that he will not follow the opinion of team doctors on a preferred course of action to address the injury.
“We were hoping, as we worked through the offseason to avoid surgery. Certainly with any injury, in particular in this one when you’re dealing with the neck. That would have been best-case scenario.” Adams said on Thursday. “At this point, Jack is not willing to move forward with what our doctors are suggesting, (which) is the fusion surgery. So we’re going to continue to work towards solutions.”
Eichel’s camp continues to insist on addressing his neck injury with a disc replacement procedure that has not been performed on an NHL player. With the two sides at an impasse, Adams has been working with agent Pat Brisson to facilitate a trade, but with his career in Buffalo likely done, the Sabres have stripped Eichel of the captaincy.
“Jack Eichel is no longer the captain of the Buffalo Sabres. From our perspective and my perspective, I feel the captain is the heartbeat of your team,” Adams said. “We’re in a situation from where we were in the past and where we are now that felt that we needed to address that and make that decision.”
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The Sabres have been endeavoring to trade the 24-year-old all summer, but in spite of numerous teams being interested, his injury status has prevented Adams from getting the return commensurate with his value as a franchise cornerstone and top-line center.
Buffalo’s inflexible position regarding the return of four first-round equivalent players or picks for Eichel is influenced by the 2018 trade that sent Ryan O’Reilly to St. Louis.
The Sabres received Vladimir Sobotka, Patrik Berglund, Tage Thompson, and two draft picks for the veteran center, who went on to win the Conn Smythe Trophy for the Cup-winning Blues in 2019. Sobotka scored six goals over two seasons, Berglund only played 23 games for Buffalo before terminating his contract and the only things that the Sabres have to show for the deal is an injury-prone 23-year-old forward and defensive prospect Ryan Johnson.
It appears that Adams is hoping that patience will pay off in the form of a good return, similar to what Colorado GM Joe Sakic did when shopping Matt Duchene, but Eichel’s injury and the failure to address may prevent that from happening.