If you doubted Jack Eichel’s suggested three-month recovery timeline after his artificial disk replacement surgery, perhaps you should think again. The Vegas Golden Knights center was seen back on the ice today in North Carolina (at what appears to be the Extreme Ice Center just outside of Charlotte) by one of the scouts for Brandon Wong Hockey, just three weeks after going under the knife.
Obviously there is still a long way to go for the 25-year-old center, but seeing him back skating has to be encouraging for a Golden Knights squad that took a huge chance and acquired Eichel last month. The team sent Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs and a package of draft picks to the Buffalo Sabres while taking on Eichel’s entire contract, one which pays him $10MM every season through 2025-26.
The last time Eichel played an injury-free season, he racked up 36 goals and 78 points. Unfortunately, that was in the COVID-shortened 2019-20 season, which seems like a decade ago after the saga that has transpired since. His 2020-21 campaign ended after 21 games and a neck injury, leading to months and months of fighting with the Sabres over his preferred treatment. Even before that he had expressed a desire to potentially go elsewhere if the team was going to go through another rebuild, and he eventually got his wish on both, sent to the Golden Knights who allowed him to get the neck procedure his representatives had been pushing for.
Now, Vegas faces a massive cap crunch if Eichel is to return in the regular season, something that is still clearly up in the air despite his appearance on the ice. There is at least the possibility that he could return only for the playoffs where there is no salary cap–similar to what the Tampa Bay Lightning did with Nikita Kucherov last season–but if the three-month timeline is correct, he’ll be ready far sooner than that.