Eichel had his first official news conference as a member of the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday, after the team acquired him from the Sabres in a Nov. 4 blockbuster. The Knights were one of the teams that would allow Eichel to get artificial disk replacement surgery rather than the fusion surgery that Buffalo's medical staff preferred. The battle over his health was prolonged and public, and it helped to fuel the trade from the team that drafted him.
"I think there are things that can be changed in our CBA, and I hope that they are in the future," he said. "I don't necessarily agree with the team having the full say in medical treatment. I think it should be a collaboration. I don't know when the changes will be -- we obviously just renegotiated our CBA a year ago -- but I wanted to stand up for what I believed in."
Eichel said he would be playing now had the Sabres allowed him to get his preferred surgery earlier this year. He is expected to undergo artificial disk replacement surgery this week and has said the recovery time is three months.
Eichel arrived in Las Vegas with the usual fanfare from the franchise. Typically, the Knights send their mascots and a phalanx of showgirls to the airport to greet newly acquired players. This time, they met Eichel at the entrance of their headquarters.
"As a player you appreciate that. As a player it makes you feel wanted," he said.
Eichel said he looks forward to playing with the Knights because he's "only scratching the surface" of his potential and feels the competitive environment of the team will help him thrive.
"The goal here every year is to win the Stanley Cup, and that's a really good mindset to have," he said.
He expanded on that on the team's official podcast Monday.
"I would say this is the most motivated I have ever been. Just with the way things ended in Buffalo. You try not to look at what people say about you, but there have been a lot of things that have been said that I don't necessarily agree with or like," he said. "It's not like you're a forgotten memory, but I think a lot of people have written me off a little bit. And I don't like that. I'm a competitor."
"Jeez, it's tough to be linked to that guy, isn't it?"Jack Eichel on being drafted second behind new division rival Connor McDavid
The Golden Knights acquired Eichel and a third-round draft pick for center Peyton Krebs, winger Alex Tuch, a future first-round draft pick and a future second-rounder. The trade puts the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NHL draft in the same division as the player who was picked first that year: Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid.
"Jeez, it's tough to be linked to that guy, isn't it? I got the short end [of the stick] there," said Eichel, drawing laughs in his news conference. "He's had a tremendous career. Connor's a world-class player. That competitiveness brings out the best in me."
"But then you get drafted by Buffalo and they expect you to kind of leave your loyalty and become a Bills fan. I definitely rooted for the Bills for a while. But it's tough, because you don't just lose your loyalty to the Patriots, but you want to support the town that you're living in," he said, adding that he'll still root for Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen, who is an acquaintance.