We are now just weeks away from the start of the regular season but in spite of things quickly drawing near there have thus far been no signs of a resolution between the Buffalo Sabres and their captain, star forward Jack Eichel.
Eichel has been out of action since March of this year after he suffered a herniated disc during a game against the New York Islanders. It has been a dispute over how to best treat this injury that has led to a significant rift between player and team, so much so that many now believe Eichel will never again suit up as a member of the Buffalo Sabres.
Although Eichel may never play for the Sabres again, it does sound like he intends to go through the necessary steps at the start of training camp. On Saturday a report from the Associated Press revealed that Eichel is expected to report to training camp in spite of his untreated injury. The AP's John Wawrow was the first to break the news, citing an anonymous source with direct knowledge of the situation.
This means that Eichel will be present on Wednesday when he and his teammates are expected to go through their physicals, a physical that Eichel is guaranteed to fail due to his injury. This will of course allow the Sabres to put him on long term injured reserve, but it is a move that is not without risk on Eichel's part. As per the rules of the collective bargaining agreement the Sabres have final say when it comes to the treatment a player is expected to undergo, and in this case Eichel has clearly refused to accept their prefered method of treatment.
Earlier this month Buffalo Sabres insider John Vogl cited two high profile cases from the past where the Sabres had medical disputes with their players, one in which a player was suspended and another where the player wasn't even allowed to attend camp. Those players were Teppo Numminen, who was suspended without pay when he needed heart surgery, and the legendary Pat LaFontaine, who was not allowed to attend camp despite conflicting opinions from doctors at the time. Admittedly the Sabres organization was run by different owners at that time.
Could the Sabres use a similar tactic to pressure Eichel into doing what they want? Given how ugly this situation has become, I wouldn't rule it out as a possibility.