If Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel decides to tell new Sabres General Manager Kevyn Adams and ownership that he wants out of the chaos that has been the Sabres for the last nine seasons and all five of his first five NHL seasons, then it appears he won’t be a Sabre for too long.
As buzz swirled around the NHL Return To Play plan coming close to fruition this past week, there were once again some trade winds blowing around Eichel. However, unlike the very public rumors that engulfed the Sabres star last month when he publicly questioned the direction of the Sabres franchise and then in the aftermath of team ownership firing General Manager Jason Botterill and 19 other Hockey Operations staff in an organizational purge, these rumors have been undercurrents amongst other league team management, scouts and some agents.
Over the last week, multiple league sources – including some NHL GM’s – have told Boston Hockey Now that they won’t be surprised if the 23-year-old Sabres superstar wants out before next season and after playing just two seasons of his eight-year, $80 million contract. Eichel hasn’t asked out of Buffalo yet and a source close to him told Boston Hockey Now recently that the North Chelmsford, MA native is still absorbing what just went down with the team’s overhaul of its staff. However, as one league source said:
“If Jack wants out, Fish will make it happen. He’s one of the best at back-channeling and getting the ball rolling. That’s why his clients love him because he’s one of the best agents out there and really does what he has to do to make them happy.”
Fish is veteran NHL player agent and former Boston University goalie Peter Fish who not only represents Eichel but other BU hockey alums such as Boston Bruins defensemen and good friend of Eichel’s, Matt Grzelcyk. Grzelcyk actually expressed empathy for his buddy in a Zoom conference call with the media on June 23. Eichel’s misfortune is just another reminder for Grzelcyk of how lucky he has been to make the playoffs in each of his first three NHL seasons.
“I know that it’s a tough situation, especially for Jack,” Grzelcyk said. “He’s one of my good friends and I know first hand how competitive he is and how much he just wants to win more than anything. He’s not really concerned with individual accolades or anything like that, he’s aware that you have the most fun at the rink when you’re winning. So it’s for sure very frustrating for him.
But it certainly makes you look inward and how grateful I am to play for such a great organization [in the Bruins]. We have such good leaders and such good veterans and guys that have been there before, and they know what it takes to get the job done. I’m so blessed to be on this team. Going through the experiences in the playoffs helps you grow each and every season. I know Jack is quite antsy to get into the playoff picture and play in those important games and shine in those big moments. I just hope he can reach that goal soon and we can see his full potential.”
Another client of Fish is 2016 Hobey Baker Award winner, former Harvard standout Jimmy Vesey who was a teammate of Eichel’s this past season in Buffalo. Vesey, you may recall, was one of the most highly coveted NCAA free agents ever back in the summer of 2016. Ironically at the time, the Sabres owned the rights to the 2012 Nashville Predators standout and Boston native after acquiring them from the Preds at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Vesey decided not to sign with Buffalo though and inked a two-year entry-level contract with the New York Rangers.
The Rangers re-upped with Vesey on a two-year deal prior to the 2018-19 season but traded him to the Sabres last July. As another NHL source pointed out to BHN Friday, Fish orchestrated the Vesey bidding war that also had the Bruins vying for his services before he signed with the Rangers on August 27, 2016.
“I’m telling you, once Jack gives the green light and indicates what teams he’d like to end up with, Fish will work hard with Kevyn to get Jack where he wants to be but also make sure the Sabres get what they deserve,” the source said.
With center David Krejci potentially coming off the books after next season and Patrice Bergeron potentially the summer after that, Bruins GM Don Sweeney certainly would love to have Eichel take over as his top pivot for the future so that his center prospects could grow their game behind a superstar veteran center again. Would Eichel spurn his hometown team as Vesey did though? Only time will tell and while all of this is moot until and if Eichel asks out, this is still a situation worth watching for Bruins fans and the fans of the 29 other NHL teams.