One of the longest-running stories in hockey over the last year has yet again taken another turn. Jack Eichel and the Buffalo Sabres relationship has been nothing less than rocky and come Thursday morning their relationship has likely hit the point of no return, as Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams announced Eichel has been stripped of his captaincy. How did we get to this point? Let’s start from the beginning.
Eichel Takes Over Buffalo
2014-2015 was rough for the Sabres finishing at the bottom of the league’s standings, going into the draft lottery they had the best odd at the first-overall selection, which came with the rights of drafting generational superstar Connor McDavid. Come lottery night the Edmonton Oilers jumped the Sabres and were award the first-overall selection, leaving Buffalo with conscious number two-overall selection Jack Eichel.
Eichel got off to a great start to his career, tallying 24 goals and 32 assists through 81 games as a rookie. He would finish fourth in the Calder Trophy race, well being named to the all-rookie team. Through his next three seasons, he would play 205 games, scoring 77 goals, while adding 126 assists. On October 3rd, 2017 Eichel would sign a massive eight-year $80 million deal to stay in Buffalo. One year later he would be named Sabres captain prior to the 2018-2019 season. During the 2019-2020 season, Eichel would be named to his first All-Star game, During that season he notched a career-high 36 goals in 68 games.
New number. New letter. Jack Eichel named the 16th captain in Sabres history. pic.twitter.com/lMRupShyXE
— Yahoo Sports Canada (@YahooCASports) October 3, 2018
The Storm Touches Down
April 14th, 2021 was the start of the end, just 21 games into the season Eichel was shut down due to a spinal disk herniation in his neck. Some may Eichel and the Sabres were in disagreement on how to treat his injury when he and then-teammate Sam Reinhart both publically expressed their frustrations with the Sabres.
Throughout the season speculation from around the league were Eichel and the Sabres were on the road to a breakup. Although as the season went on the asking price became more apparent, reportedly being a top-six forward under 25, a top-four defenseman under 25, a first-round draft pick, and prospects. This left some executives believing the Sabres are insane for asking for such a ransom. Yet the Sabres sat firmly on their asking price and did have not moved Eichel to this point.
After no trade, this offseason Eichel reported to camp and failed his physical in turn forcing the Sabres to place him on the long-term injury reserve. This move would be the icing on the cake for the Sabres striping Eichel of his captaincy. Kevyn Adams spoke on the matter saying “I feel the captain is the heartbeat of your team,” while he added, “And we’re in a situation where we were in the past and where we are now that we felt we needed to address that.”
“I spoke to Jack two days ago, I spoke to the team yesterday and addressed this, Jack Eichel is no longer the captain of the Buffalo Sabres. From our perspective, the captain is your heartbeat of your team, and we are in a situation where we felt we needed to make that decision.” pic.twitter.com/K0vajWnCR0
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) September 23, 2021
The Sabres are pushing for Eichel to get fashion surgery, although Eichel has not seemed as comfortable with this option. As the Sabres and Eichel are in a good ol’ fashion western stand-off. Although the Sabres seemingly have the upper hand at this point. Eichel still has five years remaining on his eight-year deal, as well as a potential suspension looming from the Sabres. A suspension is a gray area for the league as the new CBA agreed upon last year is in favor of the Sabres, players relinquished their right to have the final say on how they deal with injuries. Although Eichel could file a grievance if forced to have an unwanted surgery.
BUF GM Kevyn Adams confirmed Jack Eichel is not cleared to play. He said there remains a dispute on medical options — with Eichel declining a fusion and Sabres not interested in disc surgery. (Adams also backed team doctors.) Eichel is no longer captain of the Sabres.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) September 23, 2021
What Is Next?
The Sabres Eichel saga is nowhere near the end yet. Although the former Sabres captain may never play another game in Buffalo he will be a pawn in their game. The Sabres can still move Eichel and let his injury be another team’s problem, but with their asking price, many teams may be scared off. He has five years remaining on his contract and the Sabres will not be buying him out in the next few years. For the sake of the fans, everyone hopes this boils over soon but that option does not seem likely.
main image credit: