Evander Kane (Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Sabres could reportedly look at trading Evander Kane if NCAA free agent Jimmy Vesey signs in Buffalo. If Kane is sent packing, which teams might take a shot on the 24-year-old winger?
It’s no secret that Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray isn’t exactly pleased with Evander Kane.
Since coming to Buffalo in a blockbuster trade during the 2014-15 season, Kane has found himself in hot water enough times that Murray has said the youngster needs to right his behavior. The most recent incident came when Kane was arrested and charged last week following an incident that allegedly occurred June 24 at a Buffalo nightclub.
“Certainly we don’t like this is twice now he’s been in incidents like this,” Murray said on July 2 following reports of the alleged nightclub episode, via the Olean Times Herald. “It’s not good for the organization, it’s not good for him. He’s going to have to pick and choose his spots when he goes out a lot better than he does, and he’s going to have to behave himself a lot better than he has, obviously.”
However, any changes Kane makes could be too little, too late. That Kane has again found himself in hot water has some believing the Sabres could seek to move the 24-year-old winger, and the chances of that could be improved should Buffalo land top NCAA free agent Jimmy Vesey in mid-August, according to TSN 1040’s Matt Sekeres. But if the Sabres do choose to move Kane, where would he land?
The ties to Vancouver have always been there. Kane’s a Vancouver product, played his junior hockey for the WHL’s Vancouver Giants and the Canucks have expressed a want for a scoring winger who could potentially play alongside the Sedins. Kane would be a great fit there and after the Canucks tried for and missed on signing Milan Lucic, finding a deal to acquire Kane from the Sabres would give Vancouver a similar style player who has still yet to really recognize his consistent 30-goal potential.
Of course, the deal really only works for Vancouver if they don’t have to mortgage their future to acquire Kane. The Canucks need to start building for their future and for the eventual retirement of the Sedins. Trading away top picks or prospects to acquire Kane could hurt more than it would help, and Vancouver would need to free up some salary one way or another to acquire Kane as it is.
Maybe not the first team that comes to mind, but Anaheim has tried time and time again to find a scoring winger to play alongside Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Kane fits that bill and he’s got the perfect playing style to fit in with the Ducks — fast, aggressive and the ability to be punishing on the forecheck.
As far as a trade goes, the glut of defensemen the Ducks have gives them something the Sabres could use. Anaheim boasts at least seven NHL-ready defenders, and flipping one to Buffalo in exchange for Kane could help make for a quick and easy one-for-one deal that helps both sides.
The Coyotes don’t need forwards as much as they need more help on the back end, but they have enough cap space to make the move and enough assets that it could make sense on the Sabres’ side of things. The good thing for Arizona, too, is that if Kane is going to price them out of a contract when it comes time to re-sign him as an unrestricted free agent, there’s the chance to flip him at the trade deadline for even more assets.
It’s not as if Kane would get in the way of re-signing the key youngsters the Coyotes have, either. Max Domi will be due a new deal in two years, when Kane’s deal is slated to come off the books, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson isn’t up for a new contract until the 2019-20 season. Anthony Duclair would be the only key free agent that Kane’s contract could get in the way of, but Duclair won't be in line for the type of money Domi or Ekman-Larsson will command.
GM Ron Francis has done a great job of leveraging his cap space into effective players for his team, but he needs to add some scoring somehow. The Hurricanes finished 28th in the NHL in 2015-16 with just 198 goals, and only the Coyotes, Sabres and New Jersey Devils have scored fewer goals over the past two seasons combined. Kane would be a legitimate 20- to 30-goal scorer on a team that doesn’t currently have any.
The biggest issue would be working Kane’s cap hit into a team that needs to worry about restricted free agent deals for at least four roster players next off-season. Kane’s contract will still be on the books and it could put Carolina well above where they want to in terms of the cap. The good news is, though, Kane’s contract is up before the Hurricanes need to worry about re-signing Noah Hanifin.
Obviously, this wouldn’t happen before the coming off-season, but Kane would give Las Vegas an instant goal scoring threat on the top line. It’s going to be hard to come by talent like that in the expansion draft, so you can see the appeal from the Las Vegas side. If Kane’s taken in the expansion draft, though, the Sabres get nothing in return. But there is another way to do go about it.
The Sabres could potentially swing a deal that sees them trade Kane to Las Vegas in exchange for protection for another roster player or even a package of draft picks. It’s not unheard of, and that’d be one way for both sides to get something they covet. It's certainly something for Las Vegas GM George McPhee to consider.
It’s all a guessing game, though, because at this point, the Sabres haven’t locked up Vesey and Kane has been a good on-ice fit, regardless of the off-ice distractions. So if Buffalo does decide to deal the young winger, it’s going to come once they’ve got a better outlook on where their roster is headed as the season approaches.
And even then, would it make sense to trade Kane when his value might be at its lowest? If he starts off the season well, trading him might be better suited for the deadline when prices are jacked up and Buffalo can get more in return. Either way, Kane's campaign in Buffalo will be something to watch when the season gets underway.
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