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Eichel’s rift with Sabres deepens in contradicting GM Adams

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BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 11: Jack Eichel #9 of the Buffalo Sabres prepares for a faceoff skates during an NHL game against the Vancouver Canucks on January 11, 2020 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHLI via Getty Images

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Jack Eichel’s representatives released a statement Friday night saying “the process is not working,” in further opening a deepening rift between the Buffalo Sabres captain and the team.

In an email to The Associated Press, agents Peter Fish and Peter Donatelli contradicted general manager Kevyn Adams by saying the Sabres went against their own medical staff’s recommendation in determining artificial disk replacement surgery was required to repair a herniated disk that sidelined the player for the final two months of the season.

The agents also wrote they fully anticipated Eichel would be traded before the start of the NHL’s free agency period, which opened on Wednesday.

They noted Eichel would be in a position to be ready for the start of the regular season should he be cleared to have surgery, and added: “Repeated requests have been made to the Sabres since early June to no avail. This process is stopping Jack from playing in the NHL and it is not working.”

The Sabres declined to respond.

The agents’ statement comes a day after Adams discussed Eichel’s status during a news conference to update the state of the team following the start of free agency.

Adams said there was no change from the Sabres medical staff in recommending against Eichel having a procedure which has never been performed on an NHL player. He then added, the Sabres are in control of Eichel’s future because he remains under contract and he doesn’t feel any pressure to complete a trade.

“If there’s a deal out there that we feel is the right thing for the Buffalo Sabres, that we feel will help us improve ... we’d be open to it,” Adams said. “We’re not in position where we feel that we’re just going to do something to do it. That doesn’t make any sense.”

The feud between the Sabres and Eichel continues to escalate since the captain revealed in May what he called “a disconnect” with the team over how to treat the injury. He said the disagreement was leading him to question his future with the team.

The two sides had agreed to put off the possibility of surgery until early June to see if the injury would heal on its own through rehabilitation. Eichel’s agents disagree with the Sabres with what happened once that deadline passed.

“After the agreed upon and prescribed period for conservative rehabilitation lapsed, it was determined by the Sabres medical staff that a surgical procedure was required,” the agents wrote. “Our camp was under the impression that the Sabres specialist was in agreement with the artificial disc replacement surgery until that was no longer the case.”

Eichel is the face of the franchise and has five years left on an eight-year, $80 million contract.

Adams had not ruled out trading Eichel since the middle of March, and has spent the past month openly acknowledging he is shopping the player.

Adams is overseeing a major overhaul of a team that finished last in the standings for the fourth time in eight seasons and in the midst of an NHL record-matching 10-year playoff drought. He’s focused on rebuilding the team with youth and purging players who no longer desire to play in Buffalo.

The turnover began last weekend, when Buffalo traded defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to Philadelphia and forward Sam Reinhart to Florida in separate deals made a day apart.

In failing to trade Eichel, Adams on Thursday said he wouldn’t consider it to be a distraction if the captain was still on the team come the start of training camp.

“I’m not worried about distraction. I’m worried about doing what’s right for the Buffalo Sabres,” Adams said. “That’s why I take the emotion out of it, look at what’s best for us moving forward. And if there’s something that makes sense, we’ll do it.”