BUFFALO, N.Y. — Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams met with the media on Thursday and informed us that Jack Eichel as expected failed his physical and went on injured reserve.
Adams said Eichel told him he doesn’t want to be a distraction to his teammates, so he left town to do his rehab.
Eichel is not budging on his desire to get disk replacement surgery, while the Sabres doctors' think he should get the more traditional fusion surgery. With both sides in a stare-down and no team willing to give up even close to what Eichel is worth in a trade, the staring match continues.
I got the answer I expected when I asked Adams if Eichel is still the captain. He said, "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, I feel the captain is the heartbeat of your team. We are in a situation from where we were in the past, and where we are now that we felt we needed to address that and make that decision."
To me this only made sense. He’s not going to be around in Buffalo and is likely never going to play for this team again, so why would you start a new season with him as captain?
This has gotten to the point where the Sabres aren’t budging, Eichel isn’t budging, and the teams that want to trade for Eichel aren’t budging in their lowball offers. I look at it this way, if nobody is going to blink, what happens?
Eichel played hurt last season and then was too injured to play, so essentially it was a lost season. Even if he gets the disk replacement surgery right now, he’d be lucky to be able to play in the final few months of the season.
Personally, I don’t think he’s willing to sit around waiting next season too, so I think it’s very possible he just goes and gets the surgery he wants on his own, which means he pays for it and then basically says, “OK, Buffalo Sabres, your move.”
The Sabres would have the right to terminate his contract, but that accomplishes nothing. You might as well just take one of the lowball offers. They could suspend him without pay, but how does that resolve the situation? They could go through legal channels, which is way beyond my knowledge.
Eichel could also take the National Hockey League and the Sabres to court trying to get the Collective Bargaining Agreement overturned. It certainly isn’t fair to the former Sabres captain, but his own Players Association agreed to give all the medical power to the teams.
Make no mistake, the NHL is firmly behind the Sabres on this. They didn’t get the clause negotiated into the CBA if they were just going to tell players to do what they want. They likely had to give something big back to the players in return for control over them medically. So does that make the CBA ironclad? Eichel may challenge it.
Adams has been very clear and hasn’t waivered since this all came out in May. On Thursday he made it sound like he will never back down.
"We will stick to the plan, and we're not going to cave or back down because of pressure, or people are saying that you have to do this," Adams added, "We're going to do what we believe is right for this franchise."
For three months now I’ve been warning people that I wouldn’t be surprised if this drags into the season and into next season. I’m not predicting it will, but I certainly wouldn’t be shocked.