NHL Rumor Mill – October 22, 2021

by | Oct 22, 2021 | Rumors | 33 comments

The latest on Jack Eichel plus updates on the Senators and Canadiens in today’s NHL rumor mill.


ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan reports Jack Eichel’s camp is meeting with the Buffalo Sabres in a final attempt to convince management to allow their client to undergo disc replacement surgery. Team doctors recommend a neck fusion procedure.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

Eichel has a herniated disc in his neck and there’s an urgency to have it addressed as soon as possible. Under the collective bargaining agreement, teams have the final say on injury treatment. The 24-year-old center has been meeting with various doctors, collecting medical opinions to support his preferred procedure.

Kaplan said sources claimed as many as five teams were interested in trading for Eichel. The Sabres’ standing firm on their huge asking price amid the medical uncertainty has cooled most of the trade talk.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I have my doubts the Eichel camp can convince Sabres management to change its mind. Kaplan said filing a grievance could be Eichel’s last resort but it’s unlikely to succeed because the Sabres have the CBA on its side.

Eichel could be forced into a procedure he doesn’t want to continue his playing career. That could backfire on the Sabres.

There are teams right now willing to acquire Eichel (with conditions attached) and allow him to undergo his preferred procedure. The Sabres risk blowing a chance at a decent return for a player who, to be blunt, is currently damaged goods. Their hard-line could prove costly if he undergoes neck fusion and his performance suffers upon his return to action.

Whatever the outcome of this situation, you can bet the NHLPA will be pushing the league to amend the CBA to allow more flexibility for the treatment of injuries.


TSN: Chris Johnston reports the Ottawa Senators want to add a center or winger to their top-nine forwards to further boost their offense. He pointed out they have 11 picks in next year’s draft to draw upon for trade bait.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch took note of Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman suggesting Senators defenseman Erik Brannstrom could become a trade chip. While he’s currently playing for their AHL affiliate in Belleville, Garrioch doesn’t believe his days with the Senators are numbered. They hope his defensive play will improve and could also use him in case injuries strike their blueline later in the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators will have to use a draft pick or two as trade bait if they’re unwilling to move Brannstrom. Cap Friendly shows them with two picks in the second round of next year’s draft plus three in the third and seventh rounds.

Pierre LeBrun poured cold water on the notion the Montreal Canadiens might be interested in Chicago Blackhawks center Dylan Strome. He said the struggling Habs aren’t shopping around for help. General manager Marc Bergevin believes the answer to the club’s woes lies from within and that message has been passed along to everyone in the organization.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could change if the losing continues in Montreal. Then again, why waste assets for a quick fix if there’s no one in the trade market who can reverse their fortunes.

Strome has had his difficulties with the Blackhawks. I don’t see him thriving under the immense pressure he’d face in Montreal.


  1. “Their hard-line could prove costly if he undergoes neck fusion and his performance suffers upon his return to action.”

    By the same token, the Eichel camp’s hard-line could prove costly if he undergoes disc replacement surgery and his performance suffers upon his return to action.

    At this point the Sabres don’t have Eichel on the ice and are saving $10 million while maintaining cap compliance.

    oh to be a fly on the wall at the insurance.

    • If I was the insurance agency, I’m finding an out clause. Why should they have to pay for this stalemate?

      Some type of procedure needs to be done. If you were the insurance agency, would you keep paying for this for 5 years if they just can’t agree on which procedure gets done?

      They should also have some final say in which procedure is the right procedure. Again, why would they want to take the riskier road that ends up costing them money? That doesn’t sound like any insurance company I’ve ever dealt with! Lol

      Pretty interesting point Habsfan.

    • It is an interesting point and not outside the realm of possible.

      Pretty short term thinking though. Although the Pegula’s are not well thought of by many in NHL circles for how they manage the Sabres, letting your best player rot and not find a resolve, is a cold short term move that isn’t in the best interest of the team. Would they do this with Josh Allen?

      I think the Dr.’s just disagree.

      This hasn’t come up before, to my knowledge, because interests of the player and team are aligned, or should be. Get him on the ice and playing to the best of his abilities helps both parties.

      I think it does in this case as well, if the goal is to have the best team possible for the longest time possible.

      If someone was going to blink first it might be the guy living in constant pain.

    • Considering that the Sabres hold all the cards and need to maximize return or minimize loss on an asset that is accepted to be damaged goods.

      1) they save $10 million yearly payment that is covered by insurance.
      2) they meet the cap floor while laying out $50 million instead of $60 million by keeping him on IR.

      Either surgery runs the risk/probability of Eichel being a diminished asset and lowering the Sabres return.

      In a perverted way the Sabres are saving $20 million a year utilizing Eichel’s “book value”

      • Another thing to consider HF30 is that each day that goes by, Eichel is closer to his full nmc. Once he gets to that point his value is likely to plummet.

        IMO, it is time for the Sabres to get more realistic in their ask and pull that bandage off.

        It is interesting how well Buffalo is starting the season without Eichel.

      • Sparky,
        Eichel’s no movement clause is irrelevant and has no impact on the Sabres or his value.

        1) The Sabres actually make money with the status quo.

        2) Eichel can waive his NMC and he’d jump at the opportunity if it was presented to him.

        In my opinion there is no resolution, the insurance would have made a move or pronounced as they are the one’s paying out if they could, Eichel can only bluster as he has no legal rights.

        Buffalo can wait it out and save a ton of money every year while waiting for their top ten 1st round picks Nylander (Jokiharju), Mittelstadt, Dahlin, Cozens, Quinn,Power to “arrive”

        Leaves them with a ton of money to sign veteran pieces and become contenders with the money saved on a sidelined Eichel.

      • What is missing from this discussion is what the Sabres currently forego: a talented player who will help with ticket revenue and marketing merchandise.

        There is no real pressure on the Sabres to make the playoffs, but foregone revenue is real and has a pinch.

        When the Habs played the Sabres there were thousands of empty seats that would normally have filled by Habs fans – or when the Leafs play, Leaf fans, traveling to Buffalo to see the game.

        The fact that the Sabres have to rely on other teams for a good crowd speaks volumes for the level of home fan support.

        To continue to ignore this, or to insist that pressure doesn’t change the rules on player contracts, is to ignore a meaningful aspect of this situation.

        Further, as DoubleMinor has pointed out, Eichel could say “screw it” and get the surgery he wants. What do the Sabres do then? If they void his contract, they get nothing – and no, there is no avenue through the courts for breach of contract HF30. Eichel could then bet on himself and look for a new contract.

        If Eichel does do this and the Sabres don’t void the contract then all they have done is alienated a franchise player and make getting market value in return difficult.

        Not saying this is how it will play out, but it is an option. So no, the Sabres don’t hold all the cards.

      • I’m not sure I understand what you are saying HF30.
        If it is the Sabres can afford to out wait Eichel, I agree 100%, and they likely will if I had to bet. But not forever.

        If your saying the reason they are are holding firm on not allowing the disc replacement is because it is saving them $10M on the cap, disagree.

        The year before the injury Eichel was a top 5 C in the NHL, or very close to top 5. That has huge value when healthy. They can’t realize that value until he is healthy.

        Are the Sabres a better team with the assets in return? Yes.

        IMO they are simply afraid of this surgery as an option. Only thing that makes sense to me, that and insurance, which has been ruled out. Sort of.

      • Ray Bark,

        I’m saying that the Sabres enjoy a $20 million yearly swing and since Eichel “demands” a different surgery, the Sabres don’t have to risk permanent damage to their asset by pushing their option.

        They are much better off standing pat, saving a ton of money and grooming their prospects as I explained .

        I don’t think it was a plan but I do think that Eichel handed them a gift unintentionally.

        Eichel has no options and in my opinion has been advised of the legal implications of breaching his contract and none of them are good, potentially ruining him financially.

    • That is true HF30.
      The flipside is the return if he returns and plays well and is healthy.
      Not the same return as they would have got before the injury, regardless of which surgery, but still a good return. And the salary goes with him.

      He will have a surgery because the longer he waits, the worse this gets as the way I understand it this condition does get worse if not addressed.

      If he is left with no other option, I don’t see how he doesn’t get the fusion surgery. How long can a guy live in constant pain and risk permanent damage?

      I still think this is simply a medical disagreement. We may never know for sure.

      • Habsfan30, I realize your opinion is the only one that counts but a full nmc when it kicks in allows Eichel to choose where he wants to go so it is not irrelevant. The return would likely be less as they would no longer be able to send him to a team he doesn’t want to play for. Duh

  2. I can’t see Eichel camp convincing Sabres (after they have held fast on this so long) to all of a sudden agree …. and grievance…. that won’t be successful …. If CBA says Sabres have final say on surgery…. Nothing firm to grieve against

    Kaplan and 5 teams “with interest” … vague terms like Brooksie and Kypper yesterday

    Serious interest … that’s a different story

    Contenders can’t afford to give up roster spots AND be without Eichel for probably 1/2 a season

    I still think it would need to be a “building” “transition” team; with space and assets; AND there would need to be retention and conditional picks

    The field of true suitors is very small right now

  3. What are the legal ramifications if Eichel simply says “screw you” and has the surgery he wants? The CBA aside, what would the team, League do?

    • I assume that would throw all the risk onto Eichel’s camp such as contract termination and giving up any insurance policy that he has right now

    • Richard – I think the bigger issue is what happens to Eichel’s salary should the surgery not work and he’s unable to play anymore. We’re talking about 50 million dollars here.

      • And that, in a nutshell, sums up the current stalemate perfectly.

      • my concern is his personal freedom to choose what HE considers to be in his best interest. Would you allow a third party to determine the best course of treatment for your child, your spouse? I suspect not. As to an inability to play, all surgeries carry that caveat, individual choice must top organizational input. As a 40 yr RN, I have seen the routine surgery turn into a horror show, a risk understood by all patients. His risk, should be his choice.

    • From what I’ve read (and I think, but don’t know for sure this is accurate).

      If Eichel gets his chosen surgery, he is in breach of his contract. The Sabres then have the option to void the $50M remaining on his contract, but retain the rights to Eichel for the remaining 5 years of the contract.

      The Sabres could then trade his rights to any team, and Eichel would have to negotiate a new contract with them.

      That’s a big $ gamble for Jack.

      • DoubleMinor – assuming you are correct, then why doesn’t BUF ‘allow’ him that surgery under those conditions? Wouldn’t that be the best course for them – they rid themselves of the $50M albatross AND still retain his rights for some sort of value on the back end.

        This seems like a win-win from their side. Terrible idea for Jack, but I don’t see why BUF would be against it.

      • Buffalo may well be okay with that. I’m thinking Eichel has no intentions of having that guaranteed money voided.

      • and round-and-round we go.

        This is why it hasn’t been resolved. Nor is it likely to be any time soon.

        BUF isn’t going to be on the hook for $50M AND be out some sort of trade return if it goes bad. And Eichel isn’t giving up his $50M.

      • DoubleMinor–You may have just proposed the formula most likely to resolve the Eichel enigma. The scenario you’ve described is risky for Eichel, but existing conditions place all the risk on the team that owns his contract. It would seem that what those teams want and what Eichel wants will remain incongruous until Eichel assumes some of the risk. As things stand now, Eichel may not play again, surgery or not, without some action that allows for the modification of his contract. The worst possible outcome for Eichel would be having to make do on the $30 million he’s made over the last 3 years.

    • probably bar him from the nhl. could be sued by buffalo for breach of contract and be sued for the full value of his current contract which he could not afford.

      no idea but that sounded good.

    • Richard, my guess is it would be considered a breach of contract, which likely allows Buffalo to terminate it. Considering how much Eichel is owed and the risk of him not being the same player, thats a risky venture for the Eichel camp.

  4. I would think something close to 31 teams would have some level of interest in Eichel, but only a handful would have serious interest, available cap space, the assets Buffalo wants and a willingness to risk Eichel not returning to his previous level. Whichever, however this plays out, I wish the situation would get resolved.

  5. Why dont Mtl send a 2nd to NYR for Kravtsov, they do have another Russian he can speak with, and a 2nd could be a worthwhile gamble on a 9th pick.

    • Probably because the NYR have no intention – or need – to accept a 2nd round pick for someone they chose 9th overall and still control his “rights.”

      After all, the reason he’s sulking is due to the fact they decided he needed more time to mature in the AHL – much the same as Holland did with Puljujarvi. It took him a while to “get the message” but once he realized that Edmonton held all the cards, he buckled down, did what he was advised to do, and is now contributing nicely at the NHL level.

      There’s no great rush to trade Kravstov.

      • I agree George,

        Taking a 2nd would be disastrous for NY. Especially after already taking that route with Lias Anderson. Let him sit home on his couch as long as he wants.

        His overall message is a bit confused.

        “I won’t get top 6 minutes in NY”

        “I won’t play in the AHL for NY, but will elsewhere “

        Does he want NHL time, top 6 minute NHL time? AHL time?

        I really like this kid, but NY needs to hold firm here.

        Sadly, had he just shut up for a week or two, he would be playing in NY , probably on the top 6 with Kakko sidelined.

        This is how you get opportunity! Not being a temper tantrum 3 year old child, wanting his way, simply because he wants his way. Entitlement!

  6. This is nuts. Imagine if this was your situation and your employer had the authority to tell you which surgical procedure you could opt for.

    Your boss tells you that you can get the neck fusion surgery. Sure, you’ll lose a little range of motion in your neck because two or more vertebra are now essentially one long one, but it’s tried and true, and that’s all they’re willing to pay for.

    On the other hand, you’ve got a specialist telling you that disc replacement will work just as well but will give you the added benefit of keeping your full range of motion in your neck because there’s no fusion.

    • While the situation isn’t quite the same, this essentially happens quite frequently.

      There are improved “cutting edge” procedures/equipment for a variety of conditions that insurance companies may not cover because employers do not want to pay for it.

      My youngest son is a Type 1 Diabetic and I pay thousands every year for a continuous glucose monitor for him. My employer provided insurance covers a minimal amount for this device because it’s not considered “medically necessary” even though it’s been consistently proven to lead to better control and lower A1Cs in type-1 diabetics.

      • Are you in Canada?

    • fikshun–Then again, imagine an employer sensible enough to realize that your loss is also his loss advising you that most of the medical world questions the credentials of any “specialist” that tells you matter-of-factly that disc replacement will work as well as fusion, wken he can’t present evidemce that supports his opinion.

      It’s not unusual for people to search for a doctor whose diagnosis agrees with theirs.

  7. To change the rented mule topic Karlsson is a lot better since he cut his hair.
    I think they call the Eichel/BUF thing a Stymie