Buffalo Sabres GM Kevyn Adams said disgruntled star Jack Eichel has not yet requested a trade after Eichel’s contentious news conference Monday in which he openly questioned whether he’d play in Buffalo next season.
Adams said the Sabres, who finished in last place in the NHL this season, had to be willing to look at “any and all scenarios” to help the franchise improve. For Eichel and forward Sam Reinhart — the team’s leading scorer, who said he didn’t want to go through another rebuild in Buffalo — Adams said the team wants players who are committed to the franchise.
“Are you part of the solution? Do you want to be here? Do you want to be part of something great? Do you want to make this fan base proud, or don’t you? And if the answer is ‘no,’ then we’ll make those decisions,” said Adams, who just completed his first season as the team’s general manager.
Eichel said he felt “disconnected” from the Sabres after the team wouldn’t allow him to undergo experimental surgery on a herniated disk in his neck. Combine that with six seasons in Buffalo without a single playoff appearance and the team captain’s frustrations appear to have boiled over.
“It’s been tough at times. Right now, 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,” said Eichel, who is signed through the 2025-26 season and has a full no-movement clause that kicks in after next season.
As far as the “disconnect” between the sides goes, Adams said that after Eichel was injured in a March 7 game against the New York Islanders, an MRI by team doctors revealed a herniated disk in his neck and a “conservative care” method of injury rehab was suggested, with the hope that he could return to play this season. Not long after that, Eichel asked about a second opinion, and the organization supported that exploration.
But Adams said “the doctors and the experts” all agreed on a “conservative rehab approach” rather than surgery. “Typically in this situation, there’s a conservative rehab approach where you can avoid surgery and you’re able to come back and perform at the top of your game. And we’re still in that window, a 12-week mark that takes us to the end of May and early June,” said Adams. “What’s been discussed by Jack’s camp is potentially having a surgery that’s never been on an NHL player before, and our doctors weren’t comfortable with that.”
Reports are that the procedure Eichel was seeking is an artificial disc replacement in his neck. Adams played 10 seasons in the NHL. He said as a player or as an executive, he would defer to what the experts are saying about the right medicinal path to wellness.
“I don’t read MRIs. I listen to the experts. And it’s important that everyone understand that these highly regarded medical professionals all agree that conservative care is the way to go here. And that’s not just the Sabres doctors, that’s the second opinions that we’re in,” he said.
The Sabres are entering an offseason of critical decisions. Beyond the future of their star player, they also have to determine whether interim coach Don Granato had earned the job on a full-time basis. Adams said the Sabres would interview other candidates for the job.
They join the New York Rangers, Arizona Coyotes, Columbus Blue Jackets and the expansion Seattle Kraken in the coaching market.
After Adams’ news conference Wednesday, it was still unclear whether Eichel would be on the roster when the new head coach takes over.