Buffalo Sabres team captain Kyle Okposo was in Las Vegas to enjoy the atmosphere of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, something he has not experienced since signing with the Sabres in 2016 and support former teammates Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, and Brandon Montour, but also commented on Eichel’s difficult exit from the organization after six seasons.
“We want to be playing in big games(in Buffalo), we want to be playing in the playoffs and in the Cup Finals. I think that by what Florida did this year, and we only finished one point behind them….it’s doable. We’re not that far from the mountaintop.” Okposo said to Sportsnet’s David Amber and Elliotte Friedman on Monday. “Sam and Jack, I played with for a long time and (Montour) is another dear friend too, and the situation (of how they left) Buffalo wasn’t the greatest, but it doesn’t change my personal relationship. I’m here to support them first and foremost and watch them play.”
🎥 Eichel on the Tkachuk hit: He finishes a hard, clean check on me. It's a physical game. You're gonna get hit sometimes. You've just got to move on. pic.twitter.com/t4fYfIS8Ju
— z – Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) June 6, 2023
Exodus From Buffalo
Montour was dealt to Florida at the 2021 trade deadline for a third-round pick, while Reinhart was sent to the Panthers in July for a 2022 first-round pick (Jiri Kulich), and goalie Devon Levi with one year left on his contract and the likelihood he would not re-sign with Buffalo. Eichel battled with the Sabres through the summer about how to treat the neck injury that limited him to 21 games the previous season.
Buffalo stripped Eichel of the captaincy and prevented him from having what was described as an experimental disk replacement surgery, and ultimately led to the trade to Vegas in November 2021 for Peyton Krebs, Alex Tuch, a 2022 first-round pick (Noah Ostlund), and a 2023 second-rounder that was sent to Minnesota for winger Jordan Greenway.
“He did it his own way. He really stuck to his guns and he wanted the surgery that he was going to have and he did that he was able to come back and really have a strong year. ” Okposo said. “It was really tough for him to come back midway through the year last year, but he’s come back and he’s played with a vengeance this year and he’s been phenomenal.”
Eichel returned to the game and very quickly gets back to making big plays. This one sets up a Marchessault goal, 5-1 Vegas pic.twitter.com/nWGQRTtbr5
— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) June 6, 2023
Eichel leads the Golden Knights with 22 points (6 goals, 16 assists) in 19 playoff games and is the leading candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy if Vegas is able to win two more games and capture the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.