Friction between Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel and head coach Dan Bylsma has been speculated on for months, but on Wednesday that reported friction reached a new level.
According to Paul Hamilton of WGR 550, "Eichel has no desire to sign a contract extension this summer if Bylsma remains the coach."
Peter Fish, the Vice President of Global Hockey Consultants -- and Eichel's agent, strongly denied those reports over the phone saying "This is 100-percent fake. This is a complete fabrication."
"When Jack left Buffalo he left the meetings and thought he had a positive meeting with Coach Bylsma and Tim Murray," Fish said. "He's excited about the prospects of helping the team get to the playoffs next year."
The meeting Fish mentioned with Murray happened last Wednesday. After that meeting, Murray spoke with reporters for his season-ending media conference immediately after.
"I made a promise to him [Eichel] that I would do the best that I could to make the team around him better and that we'll be a longtime playoff team."
Murray went on to say that he expected to start discussing a contract extension with Eichel on July 1.
Fish admitted that Eichel was frustrated after another disappointing season, but says that's frustration with himself, not with the coaching staff.
"He's an extremely, extremely, competitive kid who hates to lose, he just hates it," Fish said. "He's just sitting there at the podium after a long season, World Cup, ankle injury, he missed the playoffs and he's got microphones in his face. Yes, his frustration level is there, but it's his frustration. He didn't get the team to the playoffs and he's frustrated and he wants to do better."
Eichel has one season remaining on his entry-level contract worth $925 thousand per year. After next season Eichel is set to become a restricted free agent, meaning the Sabres still control his rights and can match any offer he receives from another team.
"Is there ever a perfect relationship between a player and a coach? You can go on all 30 teams and there are no perfect relationships, there are bad nights and good nights," Fish added. "I think he's very taken back by this right now. He's like 'Wow, I can't believe this was actually being said and is out there.'"
When specifically asked about Eichel's future with the Sabres, Fish said that he has no intention of leaving -- regardless of who is behind the Sabres bench.
"Jack would like nothing better than to bring a Stanley Cup to the City of Buffalo and the fans there."
It's part of Peter Fish's job as an agent to put out any smoke before there's a fire. The reported friction between Eichel and Bylsma has been talked about all year.
Maybe it exists, maybe it doesn't. But if it is real, I don't like Bylsma's chances of returning next season.
Murray made it very clear last Wednesday that Eichel is the future, and he won't risk anything when it comes to locking up the Sabres 20-year-old phenom for a long, long time.
That being said, it's a bad look for the Terry and Kim Pegula if they fire their second head coach in a matter of four months. If that happens the owners will begin the search for their ninth (!) coach since taking over the Sabres in 2011 and the Buffalo Bills in 2014.
Buckle up, it's going to be an interesting few weeks.