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Hamilton Take2: What's the holdup in dealing Jack Eichel?

WGRZ/WGR550 Sabres/NHL Insider Paul Hamilton shares his thoughts on where things stand in the Eichel injury and trade talks.
Credit: AP
FILE - Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel (9) skates during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Rangers in Buffalo, in this Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, file photo. The Buffalo Sabres bottomed out as part of a vision to start over and spur a rebuild by drafting a franchise foundational player such as Jack Eichel in 2015. Six losing seasons later, the Sabres are openly shopping their captain as part of a slate-clearing purge that will essentially place the team back at square one. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes, File)

BUFFALO, N.Y. — As we head into late August it looks like the chances of Jack Eichel playing in the NHL on opening day are slim.

Eichel’s doctor, Dr. Chad Prusmack, admitted in a podcast with Elliotte Friedman that Eichel needs surgery for a herniated disk. The Sabres want him to get a fusion surgery, while Eichel wants a disk replacement surgery. At this late date, the all-star center would miss time either way.

That brings us to trading Eichel. What has been clear is this, general manager Kevyn Adams has been asking for too much, and it’s a price no team is willing to even consider. On the other side, no team is willing to part with their top prospect, and they’ve been lowballing the Sabres. 

I’m not saying this is going to happen, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Eichel still isn’t traded by season's end. When I think about this, I ask myself, why would a team give up huge assets for a player who has a good chance of not playing part or all of this season?

Adams is not going to make a trade like the Ryan O’Reilly deal to the St. Louis Blues, and I applaud that, but I think that’s going to be the only trade available to Adams for a long time.

Many fans ask why don’t the Sabres just let him have the surgery he wants? The answer is simple: If it goes sideways, the Sabres are on the hook for him and have an asset that they will get nothing for. 

The Collective Bargaining Agreement is totally in the Sabres' favor. They hold all the cards as to what Eichel can do. Eichel is frustrated, but he has the right to take all this to arbitration. The only reason that I can figure out that he hasn’t is because he thinks he would lose the case.

So what happens if Eichel refuses the course of treatment that the Sabres want him to get? Buffalo would have the right to terminate Eichel’s contract, but the more likely scenario would be to suspend him without pay. One thing I can guarantee you is Adams will be very careful not to violate the CBA in what he does.

The worst thing Adams can do is let Eichel anywhere near this team. The last thing the young players need is to listen to a disgruntled captain go on about his situation and the team. Adams said he would be fine if Eichel were at training camp, but if he really is, then he’s pretty naïve. It would be an utter disaster. 

I’ve been very consistent about this for that last few months both on WGR and here at Channel 2. I’ve said it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Eichel were still a Sabre when the season starts, and I feel even stronger about that now.



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