Quite possibly the biggest topic of discussion in the last six months has been the question of what the Buffalo Sabres should do with Evander Kane. The left winger has just one more year left on his contract at a cap hit of $5,250,000. Fans have been clamoring for a dynamic power forward who could score 25+ goals a year for as long as the Sabres franchise has existed. In this piece, we’ll be going over all possibilities that could go down in the looming decision for EK9.
Kane To Buffalo
On February 11th, 2015, former Sabres general manager Tim Murray made a blockbuster trade with the Winnipeg Jets to land Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian, and Jason Kasdorf. They had to give up St. Louis’ 1st round pick in the 2015 draft that was acquired in the Ryan Miller trade, Tyler Myers, Brendan Lemieux, Joel Armia, and Drew Stafford. For some reason, people think this was a horrible trade because we gave up to much. I for one don’t believe that we gave up any more than a few spare parts and a 1st round pick which we had three of at that time. Everyone and I mean everyone wanted Tyler Myers gone and you can look at it as Tyler Myers for Zach Bogosian (pretty much a wash). From all accounts, it seemed as if Brendan Lemieux had no intention of signing his entry-level contract with the Buffalo Sabres so it really made sense to include him in the trade. Joel Armia had his struggles in Rochester but seemed like he was starting to turn things around under the tutelage of Chad Cassidy. His value increased dramatically in 2015 and I believe it was the right time trade him. Armia has a total of 29 points in two seasons with the Jets. I’m not losing sleep over Armia. In the end, he’ll just be another replaceable 3rd line winger. Drew Stafford was a pending unrestricted free agent and was on his way out anyways and has since been traded to the Boston Bruins at the 2017 NHL trade deadline. And the 1st round pick which turned out to be Jack Roslovic is really the only big piece that fans should be stressed out for losing here but in the end, you have to give up something to get something. The Sabres got the best player in the trade (Evander Kane) end of story.
The 2016-2017 Season
Kane has a terrific season in 16-17 despite a rib injury that he sustained in the home opener against the Montreal Canadiens. Kane netted 28 goals and was Buffalo’s best 5 on 5 scorers all season. All 28 of his goals came after December 3rd when he scored his first goal of the season against the Boston Bruins. There’s no doubt in my mind that Kane would’ve scored over 30 goals had he been healthy all season long. Kane said at locker room clean out day that he came back to early from his rib injury and that he was playing hurt. Kane is going into a contract year and he’ll be motivated to have another career year and that will make for a big payday.
The Character Issues
Really what drove Kane out of Winnipeg was the alleged character problems that the former 4th overall pick possesses. Here’s a a link to a great article by Evan Peaslee of SportsNet who runs down the timeline of all of the “incidents” that Kane went through in Winnipeg. sportsnet.ca/…/a-timeline-of-kanes-indiscretions-with-jets
Arguably most if not all of those allegations that happened in Winnipeg are completely overblown by the Canadian media. But there were also a couple of incidents that happened already in Kane’s time in Buffalo. During the 2015-2016 season, Kane was accused of sexual assault and was found innocent. And on the day of the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo Kane was accused of assault at a local bar in downtown Buffalo. Since then the charges against Kane have been dismissed because he stayed out of trouble for 6 months. After the incident, the day of the draft Kane was said to have no trade value but I think that stigma is now long gone after his great season in 2016-2017.
Now after all of that backstory let’s go over the possible options of what to do with Kane…
Buy Him Out
The most nonsensical option at the Sabres disposal but it has been kicked around by some fans. I don’t know why the Sabres would use this option unless Kane gets into another incident with the law. Playing devil’s advocate here, a Kane buyout this off season would cost a cap penalty of $250,000 in 17-18 and a cap penalty of $1,000,000 in 18-19.
Especially last season many fans thought that Buffalo should just leave him unprotected in the expansion draft which I can tell you right now will not happen. But there’s been some scenarios that some insiders are suggesting that I think could be an option for new GM Jason Botterill. So here’s a hypothetical scenario, Botterill can make a side deal with George McPhee of the Vegas Golden Knights to select someone from a different team and then they will trade said player to the Sabres for Evander Kane. There are a few teams that are going to have a tough time protecting all of their stud defensemen that being the Minnesota Wild, the Nashville Predators, and the Anaheim Ducks. So the Sabres could make a deal with Vegas and will be along these lines. You select Sami Vatanen from the Anaheim Ducks and then you trade him to us for Evander Kane. Vegas will not have a whole lot of options at the forward position that will help them score goals and Evander Kane would help them out a lot in that department. Also worth noting is that Kane lives in Vegas in the off season.
Jason Botterill recently spoke with Elliott Friedman of SportsNet and he talked about his conversation on 630 CHED. “But when I spoke to Botterill he wouldn’t talk about Kane specifically. But I did get the sense from talking to some other teams like Buffalo was looking at it like, ‘We have to decide now. Are we extending him or not. Because if we’re not, maybe we have to move him.’ “
“Vancouver is always a possibility,” said Friedman when asked. “I know that rumor has always been out there and Vancouver could definitely use some scoring. I don’t know specific teams at this point in time. But I do believe that Botterill’s decision is either, ‘We do it or we move.’
“I don’t know if they want to go in next season with him unsigned because every day that you have a player like that, they’re depreciating as an asset.“
Darren Dreger spoke with The Instigators and also talked about the Evander Kane situation.
“Yeah, I would think that would make sense,” agreed Dreger. “We’ve talked about this before. Evander Kane is an interesting individual. Provided he stays focused, he’s a hell of a hockey player. And in that, there’s always going to be trade interest in Evander Kane. It’s what the expected rate of return is.”
If that team is out there, then what is the market for him. What is the rate of return. It’s going to be a fairly substantial draft pick, I would say, certainly upwards of second round. Maybe there’s a player that has to fit in there as well. But that’s just kind of my broad speculation.
“Since he’s been traded from Winnipeg to Buffalo, I’ve never heard of a package that’s been thrown Buffalo’s way. So we’re playing a bit of a guessing game here.”
Thanks to MyNHLTradeRumors.Com for those great quotes.
The approach that Botterill may be taking is the right one in my opinion. It’s not a great idea to just wait and see what happens with Evander Kane. His trade value is probably just as high as it will get right now and he might be able to net Buffalo a much needed top 4 defenseman. Botterill seems like he’ll be making the decision on Evander Kane sooner rather than later. They have to either trade him or extend his contract. There’s no way this team can just let him walk to free agency. Like Friedman said, Kane is a depreciating asset and they can’t wait until the trade deadline to pull the trigger on a trade because they’re not going to get as much for him because he’s just going to be a rental.
Take this with the smallest grains of salt but Eklund from HockeyBuzz says that the Bruins have interest in acquiring Kane and it could happen soon. I don’t think that scenario is gonna pan out. Boston is very close to the cap so it’d have to be a money in money out deal. Torey Krug and Evander Kane have the exact same cap hit so that would work for both sides. Just a hypothetical scenario for Krug like I said I highly doubt a trade with Boston happens.
Fans always like to jump to the argument of “how can you trade a 30 goal scorer?” But I’d like to know how you can let a 30 goal scorer walk as a free agent.
I do think it would be a great move to extend Kane especially if they can’t get good value for him on the trade market. But Botterill has to be aware of the fact that Eichel and Reinhart need contract extensions next season. So I think Botterill will eventually have to make the decision between Kane and Reinhart. Right now I’d keep Evander Kane and trade Sam Reinhart because Reinhart definitely has more value on the trade market. Also , they have to come to the decision on whether they can trust Evander with his off ice issues. If Kane can sort all of that out I’d have no problem keeping him going forward.
What Do The Fans Want?
Yesterday I tweeted out a poll asking what you’d want the Sabres to do with Evander Kane and the results were overwhelming in favor of keeping Evander Kane.
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