The 2021 offseason is about to get very interesting for the Buffalo Sabres.
After comments made by captain Jack Eichel of his frustrations with the disconnect between him and the Sabres and general manager Kevyn Adams, it seems like both sides are on a collision course for separation.
The 24-year-old center had a career-worst year with the Sabres in the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season, scoring just two goals and registering 16 assists for 18 points in 21 games. Eichel was banged up for most of the season, and ended up missing the team's final 33 games due to a herniated disk in his neck.
According to Adams during his end-of-season conference call on Wednesday, the Sabres, their medical staff and other medical professionals agreed that a conservative rehab approach was the best course of action for Eichel. However, Eichel seems to be in the mindset of surgery is the best course of action, and it would be a procedure that’s never been done on a National Hockey League player before.
Adams said the team is not comfortable allowing Eichel to undergo a surgery such as the one he described, but was adamant the Sabres want what's best for Eichel to get back to full health and be ready to play at his best when he returns.
So what's next for the Sabres and their options with Eichel?
TSN hockey insider Frank Seravalli joined the "Howard and Jeremy Show" on Monday to provide more insight on the ongoing mess between the Sabres and Eichel. He also said there are a few teams that are interested in Eichel on the trade market, if he were to become available in the offseason.
Here is some of what Seravalli had to say:
Seravalli on the disconnect between the Sabres and Eichel:
"Clearly with Jack Eichel sitting out and missing the remainder of the season and not hearing any news on that front, in terms of where his injury was progressing, I think some people had an inkling that something was up. I think what's fascinating is the ramifications. We can go back-and-forth on the he said-he said, in terms of what is going on behind the scenes and Jack Eichel's camp requesting to have, what turns out the be, an experimental surgery and the Sabres resisting that. If we're being honest, I think Eichel's camp has actually engaged the NHL [Players' Association], in terms of what a potential grievance might look like, and their own doctors have refused the case, and I believe would even side with the Sabres."
Seravalli on the outlook of Eichel's current interest around the NHL:
"In talking to people around the league yesterday, I had a NHL general manager who is potentially interested in trading for Jack Eichel say at the moment he's untradeable. So you've got a guy that's unhealthy, unhappy, and now potentially untradeable. It's a pretty ugly triumvirate for the Sabres and the worst-case scenario, I would imagine."
"I still think even at this very moment there's teams that would be willing to take a risk, provided that they review the medical records, to trade for a superstar like Jack Eichel. But when Kevyn Adams says to you yesterday that his goal and what's most paramount is Jack Eichel's health, that's a big reason why, because it's going to play a big factor in terms of trading Jack Eichel. Until there's clarity there, that's going to be a lot harder to do, and it's going to reduce the return."
Seravalli on the ability for teams to acquire and make Eichel's contract fit the salary cap:
"I think there's enough teams with enough space, and if you do it early enough, I don't think it's nearly as big of a limiting factor as many would make it out to be. You look at the broader picture of the league, and even looking at this year with a flat cap, the number of teams towards the bottom of CapFriendly.com that have significant space, it's only going to get better."
Seravalli on a potential fit for a trade with the Los Angeles Kings for Eichel:
"It's a world away for Jack Eichel, in terms of the pressures that would be on him, not just in-market, but also on the Los Angeles Kings' roster. That's Anze Kopitar's team. If you don't have the pressure on you to be the guy, to be the captain, to do everything when the puck is on your stick to know that it's you and no one else, that wouldn't exist any longer.
"The Kings are interested. I mentioned that they had, at least, the cursory conversation with the Sabres before the trade deadline, and I think a lot of teams have had this similar type of conversation with Kevyn Adams, which was, 'Hey, if you're going to move him now, we're prepared to make you an offer.' But in the middle of the season, it's obviously a lot more difficult for teams. So I think the message from a lot of teams was, 'Don't do anything until you talk to us.'"
Seravalli on possible pieces coming back from the Kings in a trade:
"They've got the goods to get it done. They've got the cap space, and they've got seven players on Craig Button's top-75 affiliated prospects list. I think Quinton Byfield is a non-starter. He's not leaving Los Angeles, but I think some of the other guys that are on that list: [Rasmus] Kupari, Samuel Fagemo, Arthur Kaliyev, those are types of players, top prospects that would interest the Sabres moving forward. If you can get a few of them, plus picks, plus maybe a roster player or two, who knows what the ultimate package looks like. But that's how I think you would have to approach it."
You can listen to the entire interview below: