Jack Eichel’s much-reported “disconnect” with Buffalo Sabres management regarding treatment for his neck injury overshadowed teammate Sam Reinhart’s apparent unhappiness this season. The Buffalo News’ Lance Lysowski reported the 25-year-old center was non-committal about returning next season during his media exit interview.
Reinhart completed a one-year, $5.25 million contract. A restricted free agent with arbitration rights, he’s a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility. The Sabres could be forced to shop him if he won’t commit to a long-term extension.
In his “31 Thoughts” column earlier this week, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman stated his belief the Columbus Blue Jackets expressed interest in Reinhart. He also noted the Sabres are looking at goaltenders, suggesting the Jackets’ Joonas Korpisalo or Elvis Merzlikins as possible options.
Acquiring Reinhart would help the Blue Jackets address their lack of depth at center. He took over the first-line center position when Eichel was sidelined, leading the Sabres with 25 goals and 40 points in 54 games.
The Sabres, meanwhile, could need a starting goaltender if Linus Ullmark departs this summer via free agency. If Ullmark stays, they’ll still need a reliable netminder to share the duties.
Like Reinhart, Korpisalo and Merzlikins are slated to become UFAs next summer. The willingness of either goalie to sign a contract extension will be a selling point for the Sabres. The Jackets could seek the same assurances from the Reinhart camp.
Friedman acknowledged there’s no guarantee this swap could take place. The contract implications could complicate things. Still, Reinhart for Korpisalo or Merzlikins could address the urgent needs of both clubs.