BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams intends to move ahead with “players who want to be here” and that — for now — includes disgruntled captain Jack Eichel.
Adams on Wednesday said Eichel has not requested a trade and disagreed with his team captain’s assessment of there being “a disconnect” with the Sabres over how to treat a herniated disk that has sidelined him since early March. In raising questions about his future in Buffalo on Monday, Eichel said he favored having surgery.
Adams spent the first five minutes of an end-of-season video conference call by stressing both sides have been in constant communication in regards to the injury, and had agreed to wait until early June to determine how to proceed. He said the surgery Eichel desires is one that has never been performed on an NHL player.
“We all want the same thing when it comes to Jack Eichel’s health. We want Eichel to be healthy and playing on top of his game,” Adams said. “He’s the captain of our team. He’s a great hockey player. I enjoy Jack. Where we go from here, nothing’s going to change for me personally.”
Adams then addressed Eichel and other veterans who questioned their futures in Buffalo by saying, he’s excited by the team’s young core, while adding: “We are going to get this right with the people who want to be here.”
Eichel, who has five years left on an eight-year, $80 million contract, said he has a lot to consider about his future this offseason.
“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 also wasn’t the only Sabres veteran expressing doubt about his future in Buffalo.
Forward Sam Reinhart was non-committal when asked about entering an offseason in which he is eligible to be a restricted free agent.
“In terms of the future, I don’t really have much for you right now. I’m going to take some time,” said Reinhart, who had a team-leading 25 goals and 40 points.
Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen said he’s open to being traded.
The Sabres continue to lurch from crisis from another following a calamitous season in which they finished last in the overall standings for the fourth time in seven years. Buffalo also extended its playoff drought to an NHL-record matching 10th season.
Eichel isn’t the only pressing issue Adams needs to address. He is also in the midst of a coaching search after Ralph Krueger was fired in mid-March with a 6-18-4 record, and the team in the midst of what would become an 18-game winless streak.
Interim coach Don Granato is a candidate to take over the job after the Sabres showed signs of having a competitive edge in finishing the season 9-16-3.
Adams praised Granato and his staff for doing “a tremendous job under challenging circumstances,” while adding he still intends to conduct a wide-ranging search.
“I think (Granato) believes he’s ready and capable of being the head coach of this team, and now we’ll go through the process,” Adams said.
Granato, who spoke before Adams, wouldn’t address Eichel’s injury concerns, but didn’t consider the captain and other players’ questions about their status as being alarming.
As for his future in Buffalo, the 53-year-old Granato said he had a brief discussion with Adams regarding the job opening on Sunday and anticipates the two will continue talks.
Buffalo’s younger players, meantime, had a different message in believing the team has a hopeful future, while also voicing their support for Granato to be retained.
Center Dylan Cozens favored the uptempo, puck-possession style Granato introduced.
“To win games, you have to score goals and he kind of based a lot of the game on offense,” Cozens said, of a team that scored 76 of its 134 goals under Granato over the final 28 games. “He was great. I know a lot of us here loved playing for him, and a lot of guys really shined under him.”