With NHL training camps opening in just under one month, the Buffalo Sabres and captain Jack Eichel remain at an impasse. And even the league and players’ association have not been able to help find a resolution, yet.
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, a meeting was held just under two weeks ago between the NHL, NHLPA, Sabres, Eichel and some medical professionals to give everyone a chance to present their side of the issue. But everyone ultimately parted ways again without agreeing to a solution.
“I think it was Wednesday, (Aug.) 18, there was a big meeting in Buffalo. The league was there, the players’ association was there, Eichel was there, his reps were there — that was still when he was with Peter Fish — and the Sabres were obviously there,” Friedman said on the latest episode of the 31 Thoughts Podcast. “I’m not sure if the doctors were there in person or via Zoom, I don’t know that 100 per cent, but I think everybody put their cards on the table. I think the players’ association wanted to hear everything first hand and I think the league wanted to hear everything first hand. And basically what I heard was there was no resolution. As a matter of fact, I heard everybody was still pretty dug in.”
At issue is a surgery — known as artificial disc replacement — that Eichel would like to have after he missed all but 21 games last season with a herniated disc in his neck. However, the Sabres are against the procedure due to the fact that it has never been performed on an NHL player before and would instead prefer an anterior cervical discectomy with fusion surgery.
You can learn more about the two procedures, how they are different and the risks associated with each one in this episode of the 31 Thoughts Podcast featuring Dr. Chad Prusmack.
The dispute between the team and its best player has been very public. On July 30, shortly after Sabres GM Kevyn Adams said he doesn’t “feel any pressure” to trade Eichel, the captain’s representatives released a statement saying “The process is not working.”
Last week, Eichel parted ways with those representatives — Peter Fish and Peter Donatelli of Global Hockey Consultants — and hired Pat Brisson of Creative Artists Agency as his new agent.
“I was very surprised to hear the news that he was switching agents,” Friedman said. “Everything that happened over the last couple of months from Eichel’s side, he knew everything about it. He approved it. He’s the one who really wanted to do this surgery and he was the one who really wanted to do the statements when they were released. I don’t think that his previous agents — Peter Fish and Pete Donatelli — did anything differently (than) what he wanted. But from what I understand he just decided that maybe a new approach is necessary.”
How that new approach will impact Eichel’s future — in both health and hockey — remains to be seen. But the longer it drags out, the longer it will be before Eichel returns to the ice.