BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Sabres captain Jack Eichel questioned his future in Buffalo on Monday by saying there’s a “a disconnect” with the team on whether to have surgery to repair his herniated disk.
“I think the most important thing is just trying to get healthy and figure out a way to be available to play hockey next year, wherever that might be,” Eichel said.
Eichel said he favors having surgery, while suggesting the team has a different opinion regarding the best course of treatment. He said he is contractually required to follow the team’s recommendation on whether to have surgery.
“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 during a 25-minute, end-of-season video session with reporters. He had not spoken publicly since he was checked into the end boards by the Islanders’ Casey Casey Cizikas in the third period of a 5-2 loss on March 7.
“Things haven’t been very black and white,” he said. “There’s been some tough conversations, but I’ve got to do what’s best for me.”
Eichel also expressed doubt about his future in Buffalo, calling it “a loaded question.”
“I think I’ve got a lot of thinking to do this offseason. There’s a lot that I’ll have to consider,” he said. “But for now, obviously, I’m here, I’m the captain of this hockey team. My goal is to be available and to try to help the guys in the room and help this organization win hockey games. And I’ll continue to do that as long as I’m here.”
Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams and interim coach Don Granato aren’t scheduled to speak with reporters until Wednesday.
Last month, Adams had not ruled out Eichel having surgery, but not until after the injury is re-examined after the season.
“I think the key here is that we all want the same thing for Jack, and Jack included,” Adams said. “We all want him back on the ice 100% healthy and we all feel that that will happen at the start of training camp next year. But next steps will be next steps will be next steps in where we go from here.”
Eichel said he’s been informed by doctors that the timeline to recover from disk surgery is a short one.
The 24-year-old Eichel is the Sabres’ highest paid-player and completed the third year of an eight-year, $80 million contract. He was limited to two goals and 16 assists for 18 points in 21 games in a season he was hampered by numerous injuries, including a broken rib at training camp.
Losing also continues to wear on Eichel, who has yet to make the playoffs since being selected with the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft and last year declared “I’m fed up with losing” after the team failed to make the playoffs even with an expanded 24-team field.
Buffalo (15-34-7) finished last in the overall standings for the fourth time in seven years. The Sabres also tied the NHL record by missing the postseason for the 10th straight season.
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