Jack Eichel heading to camp; will this saga with the Sabres eventually end this season?

Will the Eichel vs Sabres saga come to an end?

Jack Eichel medical
Jan 24, 2020; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel (9) is introduced before the 2020 NHL All Star Game Skills Competition at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Sabres will be opening training camp next week with many questions surrounding if Jack Eichel will be there.

That question has been apparently answered with a report from the Associated Press that he indeed will attend camp. The person asked the AP for anonymity, but confirms that the 24 year-old center will be there for a pre-camp physical.

Expectations are that he will fail his physical and be sent back home to continue his rehab. That seems like the obvious short-term outcome, but how and when will this madness eventually end?

That’s the question everyone is trying to get answered.

Jack Eichel heading to Sabres camp

It really shouldn’t be all that surprising that Eichel would attend camp. Not doing so would have caused the Sabres to suspend him and he’d lose money by the day.

What would be shocking is if the Sabres medical staff cleared him after months of rehabilitation. Buffalo can place Eichel on LTIR and let him wait for a trade to be reached, but who is going to give up major assets for a player who failed a physical, needs surgery, and makes $10 million against the cap?

No one. That’s the answer.

Which really brings us to the biggest question in the Eichel vs. Sabres saga; will they let Eichel get an artificial disc replacement?

Eichel and the Sabres need the surgery

The dispute over neck surgery has been chronicled extensively. Eichel is asking for a surgery that no active NHL player has ever had, although has been successful in other sports. NFL QB Peyton Manning being the most high-profile of them all.

Over the summer, Eichel with his then representation of Peter Fish met with the Sabres, NHL, and NHLPA to lay out their case. It resulted in a deadlock with the league taking the team’s side and the PA taking Eichel’s. Soon after, the disgruntled kid from Massachusetts hired super-agent Pat Brisson to take over.

SABRES VS JACK EICHEL
Jan 30, 2020; Buffalo, New York, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (9) looks to make a pass during the first period against the Montreal Canadiens at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

This past week, Elliotte Friedman provided an update on the possibility that Jack may be getting an answer on surgery. “I had heard Wednesday that there was hope that we might have an answer on the medical path by Friday,” he said. “The last I heard, the Sabres have gone back to the position that he doesn’t need surgery.”

That deadline has passed and there’s been no news other than Eichel is heading to Sabres camp for a physical.

Which brings us back to, what if the Sabres clear Eichel? What’s next?

It’s likely any team trading for him will demand their doctor’s look at him in order to complete any deal. If it is determined surgery is need, the traditional fusion recovery time is no less than 12 weeks. Meanwhile, the disc replacement Eichel wants is a window of 8-10 weeks.

At this time on the calendar, you are looking at Eichel being out at least until December.

An end is coming?

The two sides are clearly heading for a separation. Buffalo seems dead set in winning any trade involving Eichel.

I’m not sure in the history of sports, or at least the NHL, that the team trading the superstar won the deal.

“I do believe that Buffalo talked trade with one other team in recent weeks,” Friedman also reported. “That obviously hasn’t gone anywhere.”

And why would it? Buffalo continues to ask for at least four futures in any deal. They want a team’s top two prospects and at least next year’s first round pick. No one is giving them that. I repeat, no one.

Buffalo is also dealing with time being against them. Eichel coming back from surgery in December or January with most teams capped out isn’t going to help. Which means if there is a deal this season, it would likely come at the trade deadline. With the number of pending UFA rentals, there’s no guarantee that the market will get any better.

This summer, Jack Eichel’s full No-Move Clause will kick in. Once it gets to that point, he will have more control in who the Sabres can send him too, likely minimizing the return.

“Obviously, I’m under contract with this team,” Eichel said this pat May. “They definitely hold a lot of cards on what I can and can’t do.” Spoken like a man who knows his exact situation.

Buffalo is trying to get the most for their franchise player and it is understandable. However, it is hard not to think they have well overplayed their hand here and could be painting themselves into a corner.

Do the Sabres have to trade Eichel. The answer is no They own his tights for the next five years. If he doesn’t show report to the team, they can suspend him and save money while keeping his number on the books to reach the cap floor.

Would they do such a thing? I doubt it, but unless there’s some magical trade in the next few weeks it’s hard to see the Sabres getting anywhere near what they are asking at the trade deadline or next summer.