Potential Rangers target Jack Eichel talks of 'disconnect' with Sabres as possible trade looms

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Buffalo Sabres C Jack Eichel
Buffalo Sabres C Jack Eichel

Jack Eichel has been a name Rangers fans have been hooked on since the NHL trade deadline, when it looked like the 24-year-old could be traded out of the Buffalo Sabres organization.

While that didn’t happen, Eichel himself made it seem like his future with the Sabres was up in the air during his end-of-season media availability on Wednesday. And a lot of it stems from the way the team has handled his injury situation during the year.

"For sure I would say I’ve been a bit upset about the way things have been handled since I’ve been hurt,” Eichel told reporters via Zoom. “I’d be lying if I said things have moved smoothly since my injury. So yeah, I think there’s been a bit of a disconnect between the organization a bit and myself. It’s been tough at times, but right now for me, I think the most important thing is trying to get healthy and figure out a way to be available to play hockey next year wherever that might be. The losing stuff takes a toll. It’s all perspective.”

In a tough East Division, the Sabres were the worst team in hockey during the regular season, putting together a ghastly 15-34-7 record and a minus-61 goal differential. Eichel only played in 21 of those games, suffering multiple injuries -- from an ankle sprain, to a fractured rib, to a herniated disc in his neck that was the main culprit for being in the press box most nights.

But, while getting healthy this offseason is a main priority, Eichel is also thinking about his own future in the league. And who can blame him when the Sabres haven’t even sniffed the playoffs since he entered the league in 2015 at 19 years old.

"Listen, my No. 1 interest is Jack Eichel, you know what I mean? You gotta look after yourself,” he explained. “You gotta look after what's best for yourself. The organization has a similar job to do, which is to look out for what's best for the Buffalo Sabres. It's tough. Things haven't been, I guess, really black and white.

"We're all trying to educate ourselves in this situation and what would be best moving forward. There's been some tough conversations. But I have to do what's best for me. I'm only going to play hockey for so long. I'm 24 years old. Hopefully I have many years in this amazing game left. But I have to take care of myself.

"I think there's a lot 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 to help the guys in the room and help this organization win hockey games. And I'll try to do that as long as I'm here."

After hearing these comments, teams like the Rangers could easily get on the phone with Buffalo to see what they might be thinking. A few months ago, one NHL exec told The Athletic he believed the Rangers would one day land Eichel.

“I think at the end of the day, Jack Eichel is going to end up a New York Ranger," the executive said. "I just don’t know when that’s going to be."

Eichel still has multiple years left on his deal that ends following the 2025-26 season. He’s due to make $10 million with Buffalo next year.

We’ll see if Buffalo is, in fact, the sweater he’ll don in the NHL next season.