Jack Eichel says he has 'a lot of thinking to do' about future with Sabres

Jack Eichel offered more to chew on as he made his way through the exit doors after another dreadful season with the Buffalo Sabres.

Speaking to the media for the first time since a neck injury ended his season — one which was highly disappointing from an individual standpoint, as well — the Sabres captain insinuated that he and the organization are not seeing eye to eye.

While he deflected when asked directly about submitting a trade request, Eichel said he has "a lot of thinking to do" with regards to his future, and whether that will continue to intersect with the Sabres.

"There's been some tough conversations but I've got to do what's best for me," Eichel explained. "I'm only going to play hockey for so long. Hopefully I have many more good years in this amazing game, but I've got to take care of myself."

Jack Eichel certainly sounds likke a guy who has reached his breaking point in Buffalo. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Jack Eichel certainly sounds likke a guy who has reached his breaking point in Buffalo. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Eichel, 24, has only seen the Sabres regress since being drafted No. 2 overall behind Connor McDavid in 2015. The team's best season performance in the Eichel era was arguably a sixth-place finish in the Atlantic Division back in 2018-19. That season was also Eichel's best from a production standpoint, and yet the Sabres could only accumulate more points than four other teams league wide.

This season has been particularly disastrous, as the Sabres matched the record for the longest regular season losing streak at 18 games, fired head coach Ralph Krueger, and finished last in the East Division standings. Eichel himself was limited to two goals in 21 games. If there has been a positive to take from the situation, it's that Eichel's teammates seem to have responded well down the stretch to interim head coach Don Granato.

But it might be more than simple on-ice ineptitude, it seems, which has driven Eichel to a potential point in which he's demanded a change of scenery with five seasons and more than $50 million remaining on his contract.

The captain pointed to a fundamental divide between captain and team in his media session, one which is possibly connected to the organization's attentiveness to his health.

“I’ve been a bit upset about the ways things have been handled since I’ve been hurt," he said. "There’s been a bit of a disconnect between myself and the organization. The most important thing now is to get healthy and be ready to play hockey next year, wherever that might be.”

It's believed that Eichel put off surgery to repair the herniated disc in his neck, a decision which has surely backfired. The extent to which the captain would discuss injuries, however, was merely to explain that they weren't a valid excuse for how he and the team performed, and that he has to get back to 100 percent in order to help the team, or his team, next season.

For now, we can only make assumptions on what Eichel truly wants, though it's hard not to understand why he might be wavering on the idea of spending 11 seasons in Buffalo, as promised with his current deal.

But in any event, a massive undertaking awaits highly inexperienced GM Kevyn Adams, who might still be licking his wounds after a regrettable outcome at the NHL's trade deadline.

Dealing Taylor Hall and Eric Staal, however, will pale in comparison to the pressure associated with moving a franchise piece under contract for the next five seasons, just as Eichel remains.

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