Updated: Oct 18
There are few things that scare NHL fans more than not making the playoffs. There is the trade deadline, free agency, offseason trading and expansion drafts. All of these come with the possibility of a fan’s favorite player being traded to another organization. However, some trades are made with the player’s best interests in mind and can benefit the player in the long run.
In recent weeks trade rumors have been surrounding the expansion draft for the NHL's 32nd team the Seattle Kraken but also the fate of Jack Eichel. Eichel is the current captain of the Buffalo Sabres and was drafted by the organization in 2016. He is the face of the Sabres and the organization’s highest-paid player. Eichel signed an 8 year / $80,000,000 contract with the Sabres. With five years left on his contract, Eichel may be looking to part with the Sabres after the handling of his neck injury. Eichel has not outright said he wants to be traded. However, teams like the Ducks, Flames, Wild, Golden Knights, Bruins, and Rangers are looking to acquire Eichel if he is traded
On March 7, 2021, in a game against the New York Islanders, Eichel took a hit in the game that would ultimately end his season. Following the hit, Eichel was examined by team doctors and diagnosed with a herniated disc. While the injury ended his season, how to treat the injury is causing the most trouble. The Sabres organization is recommending a 12-week rehab, but Eichel is requesting surgery after seeking a second opinion. The surgery that he is requesting is a cervical disk replacement surgery, which has never been performed on an NHL player. Recovery time for this surgery is an average of 4 to 6 weeks. Eichel and general manager Kevyn Adams are at ends with each other despite trying to find common ground. However, a trade deal and the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) may be on Eichel’s ticket to getting the surgery.
The new CBA was approved in July of 2020 and is in effect until 2026. The CBA is a legal contract between the NHLPA and the NHL that sets out the terms and conditions of employment for all professional hockey players playing in the NHL, as well as the rights of the NHL Clubs, the NHL, and the NHLPA. Sections 32 to 50 lays out the Medical – Legal Issues of the agreement. Section 34 Second Medical Opinion List – Selection and Removal is applicable in Eichel’s situation. Attachment C of Section 34 says; “A Player may seek a second medical opinion regarding a diagnosis made by a team physician or a course of treatment (including the timing thereof) prescribed by a team physician ("Second Medical Opinion") from a list of medical specialists with outstanding reputations and experience in their area of expertise...”. This allows Eichel to seek a second opinion after receiving a diagnosis or treatment from the Sabres’ medical team. Eichel was in his legal right to seek a second opinion after not agreeing with the team doctor’s recommendation for treatment.
Potential teams looking to acquire Eichel may permit him to get the surgery that he wants. But it doesn’t seem likely that the Sabres will relent easily. The team is looking for young players and that could require teams to give up prospects and high-level draft picks to get Eichel. The complicated part of this is that the Sabres could limit teams’ access to Eichel’s medical records unless the trade is serious. If access to medical record is limited, teams may walk instead of going through the hassle. In the coming hours, days, and weeks, it will be interesting to see whether Eichel stays in Buffalo or is sent elsewhere. Either way, this will create fascinating NHL precedent moving forward. A trade could happen any second – stay tuned.
Collective Bargaining Agreement, The PA | NHLPA.com, www.nhlpa.com/the-pa/cba.