The Buffalo Sabres “don’t feel any pressure” to trade center Jack Eichel before the start of training camp, general manager Kevyn Adams said Thursday.
“We’re continuing to have a lot of conversations with teams and we’re open on all our players,” Adams said. “I’ve said over and over again, and Jack in particular, the phone rings, we have conversations, but I think what’s critically important to make sure is clear is that we’re in control of this process. We have a player under contract. We don’t feel any pressure.
“If there’s a deal out there that we feel is the right thing for the Buffalo Sabres that is going to help us improve, whether that’s improve right away or improve down the road, those are all the things we’d be open to.”
Eichel’s agents, Peter Fish and Peter Donatelli, told Sportsnet in comments published Sunday that they expected the 24-year-old to be traded in the near future. But Adams said he will not give in to calls to trade the No. 2 pick from the 2015 NHL Draft who has scored 355 points (139 goals, 216 assists) in 375 NHL games.
“I’m not worried about distraction, I’m worried about doing what’s right for the Buffalo Sabres,” Adams said. “And that’s why I say I’m taking the emotion out of it. We look at what is best for us moving forward, and if there’s something that makes sense, we’ll do it.
“What I can’t say is it has to be this time or that time or any sort of pressure point. If it’s the right time and the right deal, we’ll do it, but that’s just, you know, how I feel. I feel very strongly about that.”
The Sabres captain missed the final 33 games of the season with a herniated disk after scoring 18 points (two goals, 16 assists) in 21 games. Adams said he was aware Eichel has started skating again and said there is no change in his medical condition.
Eichel and the Sabres have not agreed on treatment. Eichel has expressed interest in surgery; the Sabres have said their doctors aren’t comfortable with a procedure that has not been performed on an NHL player, preferring an approach of rest and rehab.
On July 1, Fish told The Associated Press, “We are communicating with the team and are heading toward a resolution.”
Eichel has been the subject of trade rumors after his public dissatisfaction with Buffalo’s on-ice results and the difference of opinion over his medical situation. The Sabres (15-34-7) were last in the NHL standings this season, which included an 18-game streak without a win, an NHL record. They have not qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2010-11, five seasons before Eichel’s debut.
Adams, who said Saturday he would have no problem with Eichel being with the Sabres in training camp, said Thursday he is not concerned what impact there would be if that happened.
“Like I’ve said over and over again, we want players who want to be here, so I’ll start with that,” Adams said. “But we have players that are on our team under contract, and we aren’t going to do something that we don’t think makes sense for a franchise. We have a bunch of good pros in our locker room, younger players that are hungry that want to be here.”
Two other Sabres who expressed disappointment with the results of the season — forward Sam Reinhart and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen — were traded in the week leading to the beginning of free agency Wednesday.
Ristolainen was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers for defenseman Robert Hagg, the No. 14 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft and a second-round pick in the 2023 draft, and Reinhart was traded to the Florida Panthers for goalie prospect Devon Levi and a first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.
Adams also spoke about Buffalo’s goalie situation after losing Linus Ullmark as a free agent. The 27-year-old, who was 9-6-3 with a 2.63 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in 20 starts this season, signed a four-year, $20 million contract ($5 million average annual value) with the Boston Bruins on Wednesday.
Adams said the Sabres wanted to re-sign Ullmark but couldn’t meet his price.
“We needed to stay disciplined,” Adams said. “We felt we got to where we were comfortable. He made a decision to go a different direction, and then we pivoted.”
The Sabres signed Aaron Dell, 32, and Craig Anderson, 40, to join 22-year-old Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen on the roster. Adams said the Sabres will monitor the trade and free agent markets but there is no urgency to bring in additional goalies.
“We feel good where we’re at,” he said. “But I think we’ll look at everything. We’ll continue to have discussions. You keep your eye on guys that maybe could become available at the end of training camp, and we’ll evaluate that. But no, we feel good with the players we got.”