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Eichel upset with handling of injury, eyeing next season 'wherever that might be'

Jared Silber / National Hockey League / Getty

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel spoke to reporters Monday for the first time since early March, and he certainly didn't hold back.

"For sure, I would say I’ve been a bit upset about the ways things have been handled since I’ve been hurt," the Sabres captain said.

"I'd be lying (if I said) things have moved smoothly since my injury. ... There’s been a bit of a disconnect (between) the organization and myself. It's been tough at times, but right now for me, I think the most important thing is just trying to get healthy and (figuring) out a way to be available to play hockey next year, wherever that might be."

Eichel confirmed he broke the tip of his rib during a drill several weeks before training camp opened and also said he played through a lingering abdominal injury dating back to last season, according to Spectrum News' Ted Goldberg.

The 24-year-old star added he hasn't ruled out undergoing surgery on the herniated disc in his neck that shut down his 2021 campaign in March, according to the Buffalo News' Lance Lysowski. In fact, Eichel appeared to imply he wanted to go through with a procedure, but the team didn't allow it.

Eichel also said he's not using the injuries as excuses for his diminished production this season. "I've just got to be better," he said. "I've got to be a better hockey player."

The forward, who's under contract through 2025-26 with a $10-million cap hit, intends to mull over his future this summer.

"I think I have a lot of thinking to do in this offseason," Eichel said, according to the Buffalo News' Mike Harrington. "I think there's a lot that I have to consider. For now, obviously, I'm here, and I'm the captain of this hockey team, and my goal is to be available and try to help ... this organization win hockey games."

Eichel played his last game of the campaign for the league-worst Sabres on March 7 before being ruled out for the remainder due to his neck injury. After missing a pair of contests in late February, he contradicted Buffalo's then-head coach Ralph Krueger, who gave a different timeline of when the injury occurred.

The American-born player only collected two goals and 16 assists through 21 games this season, but his underlying numbers proved misfortune was a factor. Eichel authored a subpar 38.46 goals for percentage at five-on-five in 2021, but he posted a 56.42 expected goals for percentage in the same situations, according to Natural Stat Trick.

Eichel's served as Sabres captain since 2018-19 and has spent his entire six-year career with Buffalo.

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