The standoff between the Buffalo Sabres and star center Jack Eichel has progressed past the point of usefulness for all involved.
It's degenerated into public discourse for a matter than should have remained internal; now we have a general manager bragging about leverage, and agents sending Notes app missives to local media in response.
It's a played out drama that's a deterrent to Eichel getting healthy and a detriment to the Sabres' ability to recoup assets for someone who is likely to never play for them again.
I respect that it's a complicated matter due to Eichel's neck injury, his contract (with five years and $50 million remaining) and the pandemic economy of the league. But the longer this goes, the more complicated it gets. And it's gone as long as it has because the Sabres' leverage doesn't breed urgency. Which is bad news for Jack Eichel.
Sabres GM Kevyn Adams -- who cannot, under any circumstances, botch this trade -- sounded practically leisurely the other day, either as a negotiating ploy or statement of fact -- or a little of both.
"We're in control of this process. We have a player under contract. We don't feel any pressure," he said. "If there's a deal out there that we feel is going to help us improve right away or down the road, we'd be open to it. But we're not going to do something to do it. That doesn't make any sense."
Adams has gone so far as to say that the Eichel drama could extend into the preseason. "I would have no problem at all if Jack Eichel is on our team when we start training camp," he said.
All of this set off Eichel's camp, as agents Peter Fish and Peter Donatelli sent a statement to local media that stated "the process is not working" for their injured client.
"What is being left out of the discussion is that Jack would be able to play in the NHL for the start of the season pending medical clearance if he were allowed to have the surgery he desires, even as of [July 30th]," they wrote, "Repeated requests have been made to the Sabres since early June to no avail. The process is stopping Jack from playing in the NHL and it is not working."
(We reached out to his agents, who did not respond. Adams is traveling this week and was unavailable, per the Sabres.)
As the drama continues, things are looking bleaker for Eichel, even as the trade outlook isn't exactly rosy for Buffalo. Here's where things stand and where they could be going.
Eichel was diagnosed with a herniated disc in his neck earlier this year by Sabres team physicians. The course of action the team physicians preferred was a conservative rehab approach, with the hope that he could return to play in the 2020-21 season. Eichel asked to receive a second opinion, which is his right under the NHL's collective bargaining agreement.
After that rehab window was over, the team medical staff suggested an anterior cervical discectomy with fusion to alleviate Eichel's discomfort, a commonplace procedure but one that could lead to some loss in range of motion and could require additional surgery later in life.
Eichel wanted disc replacement surgery, with an artificial disc being placed in his neck. It promises a shorter rehab time, the potential for less loss of motion and far less potential for the necessity for future surgeries.