BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – After months of speculation, it finally happened. The Buffalo Sabres traded team captain Jack Eichel to the Vegas Golden Knights, the team announced Thursday morning.
In return for Eichel and a 2023 third-round pick, the Sabres get Peyton Krebs, Alex Tuch, a top-10 protected 2022 first-round pick and a 2023 second-round pick.
The move comes on the heels of a tumultuous offseason between the team and the star forward. After Eichel suffered a neck injury that limited him to 21 games last season, he hinted in his post-season press conference that he wanted to get surgery to repair the damage, but that the team didn’t want him to do it.
“I would say I’ve been a bit upset about the way things have been handled since I’ve been hurt,” Eichel said in the press conference. “I’d be lying to say that things have moved smoothly since my injury. I think that there’s been a bit of a disconnect I think from the organization and myself and it’s been tough at times.”
Days later, general manager Kevyn Adams said that Eichel wanted to have experimental surgery that had never been done on a hockey player. This led to the organization not supporting a potential surgery, but instead wanted him to complete his already-assigned rehab.
“I don’t read MRIs. I listen to the experts,” Adams said. “These are highly regarded medical professionals that all agree on the same thing that conservative care is the proper step. “
During his post-season presser, Eichel appeared unhappy with the organization, which led to a lot of speculation that this type of situation could cause a rift between the player and the team.
“Obviously I’m under contract with this team and they definitely hold a lot of cards on what I can and can’t do,” Eichel said.
Later in his post-season presser, Eichel once again hinted at potential unhappiness with the organization.
“I think I have a lot of thinking to do this off-season,” Eichel said. “I think there’s a lot that I have to consider, but for now obviously I’m here, I’m the captain of this hockey team and my goal is to be available and to try and help the guys in the room and help this organization win hockey games.”
Jack’s career in Buffalo can be described, among other things, as up-and-down. After three straight losing seasons, the Sabres needed a talent to turn things around, and in 2015 it seemed like they found their man. The Sabres drafted Eichel second overall in the 2015 NHL Draft. Eichel was considered a generational talent, along with Connor McDavid, who was drafted number one by the Edmonton Oilers.
Eichel made an immediate impact on the Sabres, scoring 24 goals and 32 assists in his rookie season. That season, the Sabres had their best record in four years. Things only got better for Eichel in terms of stats, as the 56-point rookie year turned out to be the lowest of his young career.
The confidence level among the fanbase was high early in Eichel’s time in Buffalo, as the team showed improvement. Two years later, Jack was named alternate captain and eventually earned captain status going into the 2018-19 season.
Buffalo hasn’t made the playoffs since Eichel came on board, and despite a quick improvement in his first season, the team hasn’t won more than the 35 games they did in his rookie year.
The Sabres added some pieces last season like Taylor Hall and Eric Staal, but the team’s record didn’t get any better, which could also have added to the frustration.
Eichel’s career in Buffalo is over. Now the fans and the team will see from afar whether they’re better with or without their former captain.