Buffalo Sabres star Jack Eichel was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday in a blockbuster trade after a months-long standoff with the team over the treatment of a neck injury that has kept the center sidelined since March.
Weeks after being stripped of his captaincy, Eichel, the Sabres’ highest-paid player, is headed to Las Vegas in exchange for forwards Peyton Krebs and Alex Tuch, a 2022 first-round pick and a 2023 second-round pick, according to the team’s website.
In addition to Eichel, the Knights have also picked up a 2023 third-round pick.
New York Islanders center Brock Nelson (29) wins a face-off against Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (9) during the second period an NHL hockey game, Sunday, March 7, 2021, in Uniondale, N.Y. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
The rift between the Sabres organization and Eichel began in the offseason over a disagreement on how to treat a herniated disk in his neck. The 24-year-old favored an artificial disk replacement surgery, but the team was against it because it had never been performed on an NHL player. Instead, the Sabres favored having the disk fused.
Under the NHL’s new collective bargaining agreement reached last year, teams now have the final say on how players can treat injuries
Prior to the start of the season, General manager Kevyn Adams announced that Eichel would not return as team captain after failing his physical.
FILE – Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel (9) is shown during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers in Buffalo, N.Y., in this Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021, file photo. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
“To this point, Jack is not willing to move forward with the fusion surgery that our doctors are suggesting. So we’re going to continue to work towards solutions,” Adams said at the time. “I spoke to Jack two days ago, I spoke to the team yesterday and addressed this, Jack Eichel is no longer the captain of the Buffalo Sabres.”
“From our perspective, the captain is the heartbeat of your team, and we are in a situation where we felt we needed to make that decision.”
FILE – In this Feb. 15, 2021, file photo, Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel skates during the second period of the team’s NHL hockey game against the New York Islanders in Buffalo, N.Y. Eichel will travel to Buffalo for his pre-training camp physical this week amid questions of whether he’ll be cleared to play, and his future with the team in limbo, a person with direct knowledge of the player’s plans told The Associated Press on Saturday, Sept. 18. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes, File) (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes, File)
Sources told ESPN that Eichel will undergo the surgery he wanted as soon as this week, meaning he’ll miss at least three months before being cleared to play. Eichel is in the fourth year of an eight-year, $80 million contract.