April 15: At his media availability today with reporters including John Vogl of The Athletic, Sabres GM Kevyn Adams explained that Eichel will be re-examined in early May but for now will continue rehab, not undergo surgery.
April 14: The Buffalo Sabres have actually played better of late, but bad news is coming down about their captain. The team has announced that Jack Eichel will miss the rest of the season due to a herniated disk in his neck. Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reported that Eichel is expected to need surgery but should be healthy for the start of the 2021-22 season.
You couldn’t script a worse season for Eichel, who came into the year with huge expectations after scoring 36 goals and 78 points in just 68 games during the shortened 2019-20 campaign. He had taken the next step in his career and the front office had rewarded him by bringing in a top free agent, signing Taylor Hall to a one-year $8MM deal specifically to play alongside Eichel. Well, Hall is now in Boston after quickly playing himself off Eichel’s wing and recording just two goals in 37 games, while the Sabres’ captain will finish his season with just 18 points in 21 games played.
The fact that Eichel had just two goals of his own is an incredible dropoff for a player that had 137 through his first five NHL seasons and strongly contributed to the Sabres league-worst record. Now the question becomes whether or not Eichel has played his last game for the Sabres, as trade rumors have followed him in each of the last several offseasons and will only grow in volume after this brutal year.
It has now been nearly six years since the Sabres selected Eichel second overall behind Connor McDavid in 2015. In that time he has yet to even sniff the postseason, with the Sabres finishing no higher than sixth in their division during his career. He’s played through the entire coaching tenures of Dan Bylsma (2015-17), Phil Housley (2017-19), and Ralph Krueger (2019-21) without any real success, despite his own high point totals. The fact that he’s making $10MM per season for the next five years will only increase the trade talk as the Sabres obviously need to go through a real rebuild if they want to compete.
Eichel will turn 25 in October and is now facing a long rehab with plenty of uncertainty surrounding the future of the Sabres. This won’t be the last time his name graces the headlines before the start of 2021-22.
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