BUFFALO, N.Y. — Jack Eichel lost nearly an entire season of his NHL career because of a stalemate over how to treat a neck injury. The deposed and now former Buffalo Sabres captain has finally gained some clarity – and control – over his future.

It took eight months, but Eichel can start thinking about playing again.

The bitter, public feud between the Sabres’ franchise player and team over how to treat the injury finally reached a resolution Thursday when Buffalo traded the 25-year-old Eichel to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Eichel received his long-standing wish to leave Buffalo, where he’s only known losing, and join a Golden Knights franchise that’s known mostly success during its four seasons of existence.

More importantly, Golden Knights General Manager Kelly McCrimmon made clear he will allow Eichel to have his preferred choice of surgery by having his herniated disk artificially replaced, which is something the Sabres denied because the procedure had never been performed on an NHL player.

“The decision of the surgery is one that we respectfully defer to Jack and his representatives,” McCrimmon said. “Why wouldn’t his people want what’s best for him?”

Where the Sabres balked by insisting Eichel have fusion surgery, McCrimmon accepted the reality in making what could be called a Vegas gamble in acquiring a player who will be sidelined for another three to five months. In doing so, he addressed the franchise’s most pressing long-term need, a top-line center, by trading forward Alex Tuch, rookie center Peyton Krebs and two draft picks to Buffalo.

“The price was high for him, obviously, in terms of what we have sent to Buffalo, but at the same time for a player of this ilk, it should be high,” McCrimmon said. “For me, when you look at what an NHL contending team should look like, he’s really an important piece of that.”

In Buffalo, GM Kevyn Adams can finally proceed with additional pieces to his youth movement, and an emphasis on players proud to wear the Sabres jersey. Tuch, for one, was a Sabres fan growing up in Syracuse, New York.

Though the dispute between the Sabres and Eichel reached a breaking point over surgery, the two sides appeared headed for divorce long before he was hurt in March.

“He shared with me that he was ready to …” Adams said, without finishing the sentence. He then added: “It was a frustration for him, and it all built over time, and that’s where he got to.”

Adams declined to say whether Eichel requested a trade.

Eichel’s frustrations playing for a team that had not made the playoffs and is on its fourth coach and third GM since his arrival in 2015, had become increasingly apparent. In May 2020, a year before questioning his future in Buffalo, he said he was fed up with losing.

The key to Adams became holding out for the right package in return.

“What I felt strongly about was we were not going to be backed into a corner or feel that we were going to make a deal that we did not feel right for us regardless of any external pressure, or anything being said,” Adams said.

Eichel was the Sabres’ highest-paid player and is in the fourth season of an eight-year, $80 million contract. He topped 20 goals in each of his first five seasons and enjoyed a breakout year in 2019-20, when he had a career-best 36 goals in 68 games before the season was abruptly halted because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Overall, he had 139 goals and 216 assists in 375 games with Buffalo.

Buffalo acquired a top-10 protected first-round pick in the 2022 draft and a 2023 second-round selection, and also sent Vegas a 2023 third-round pick.

Eichel joins a Golden Knights team off to a 4-5 start and already depleted by injuries, with five players on injured reserve, not including William Karlsson, who is out indefinitely because of a broken foot.

The Golden Knights currently have room under their salary cap for Eichel because players on long-term injured reserve don’t count against their active payroll. They will, however, have to get creative once their roster gets healthier, unless Eichel is unable to return until the playoffs, when the salary cap no longer counts.

Vegas’ weakness at center to drive the offense was apparent last season when the Golden Knights scored just 13 goals in losing a six-game series to Montreal in the semifinals.

The opportunity to add a player of Eichel’s caliber was too good to pass up for McCrimmon.

“We felt that we could not be doing our organization justice to fail to pursue it,” he said.

The Sabres, at 5-3-1, are off to a better start than expected under first-year coach Don Granato and despite a piecemeal roster of youngsters and journeymen.

Tuch is sidelined until January after having shoulder surgery this offseason. The dependable, hard-hitting winger has 61 goals and 78 assists in 249 career games. Krebs is a 2019 first-round pick who has one assist in 13 NHL games.

“Mixed emotions for me,” Sabres assistant captain Kyle Okposo said, noting the bond he had built with Eichel. “But, I think that it was time and there wasn’t going to be an amicable ending to this thing, it was always going to end towards the trade. So, happy for him from a personal level and happy that the organization is moving forward.”

The Sabres completed another trade by acquiring defenseman Johnny Boychuk from the New York Islanders for future considerations. Boychuk ended his career a year ago because of an eye injury but is still owed the final year of his salary and represents a $6 million salary cap hit.

Buffalo essentially acquired the salary to boost its payroll above the NHL’s minimum.

THE EXECUTIVE BOARD of the NHL Players’ Association voted to approve an independent investigation into the union’s handling of sexual assault allegations by Kyle Beach in 2010.

Executive director Don Fehr recommended on a call earlier this week bringing in outside counsel to review what happened more than a decade ago when the PA learned of Beach’s allegations.

Players in recent days expressed concern over the NHLPA’s handling of Beach’s allegations, even though he wasn’t technically a member because he never played in an NHL game. An investigation commissioned by the Chicago Blackhawks found that a confidant of Beach’s reached out to the NHLPA, with nothing coming of it.

COYOTES: Arizona claimed goalie Scott Wedgewood off waivers from the New Jersey Devils.

The move gives the Coyotes some goalie depth after Carter Hutton suffered a lower-body injury last week.

Wedgewood, 29, went 0-2-1 with a 3.19 goals-against average in three games with the Devils this season. He previously played with the Coyotes in 2017-18, going 5-9-4 with a 3.45 goals-against average in 20 games.


PENGUINS 3, FLYERS 2: Kris Letang stuffed a wraparound past Carter Hart 1:57 into overtime and Pittsburgh won at home.

Playing in his first game since Oct. 19 following a bout with COVID-19, Letang’s first goal of the season helped the Penguins end a three-game losing streak on a night when they played without star center Sidney Crosby and Coach Mike Sullivan. Crosby tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday and Sullivan tested positive Thursday. Assistant coach Todd Reirden will fill in during Sullivan’s absence.

GOLDEN KNIGHTS 5, SENATORS 1: Jonathan Marchessault scored twice and Vegas won at Ottawa.

Mattias Janmark, Brett Howden and Alex Pietrangelo also scored for Vegas, and Robin Lehner made 38 saves against his former team.

MAPLE LEAFS 2, LIGHTNING 1: William Nylander scored on a power play at 3:43 of overtime to give Toronto a victory at home against Tampa Bay.

John Tavares tied it for Toronto with 41.1 seconds left in regulation and goalie Jack Campbell off for an extra attacker. In overtime, Tavares was slashed on a breakaway by Lightning captain Victor Hedman, and Nylander scored his team-leading fifth goal of the season on a one-timer.

PANTHERS 5, CAPITALS 4: Eetu Luostarinen scored 1:55 into overtime to give host Florida its best 10-game start to a season.

Luostarinen’s centering pass went off a Capitals player and into the net, moving the Panthers to 9-0-1. The team’s previous best 10-game start was in 1996-97, with a 7-0-3 record.

Florida’s Aleksander Barkov scored two goals, raising his career total to 188, tied with Olli Jokinen for the most in franchise history.

ISLANDERS 6, CANADIENS 2: Brock Nelson scored four times and New York won at Montreal.

Playing the eighth of 13 straight road games to open the season while their new arena is finished, the Islanders scored more than four goals for the first time this season.

Oliver Wahlstrom and Jean-Gabriel Pageau also scored to help the Islanders improve to 4-2-2.

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