Reprinted with permission from hockyebuzz.com
Having defenseman Jake McCabe in the fold for three years is a good thing for the Buffalo Sabres. Having him re-sign at a $1.6M cap-hit is even better.
McCabe played on the second pairing with the Sabres mostly with young-vet Zach Bogosian as probably Buffalo's most consistent pairing for the better part of last season. McCabe, who was taken with the 44th pick in the 2012 NHL Draft played in 77 games his rookie season recording 14 points (4+10) while leading the team in plus/minus with a plus-6 rating.
With only full season under his belt, McCabe has established his floor as a gritty, positionally sound second-pairing defenseman with a high hockey IQ who will stand you up at the blueline and harass you in his own end. He has the remarkable capacity to regroup after a poor shift, period or game and come back with a strong performance. McCabe also has untapped offensive upside as he has a penchant for finding that soft spot in the offensive zone (especially sneaking in from the left side) and has a shot from the point that regularly finds it's way through to the net.
It's not surprising that he seemed to spend most of last season focusing on defense, nor is it surprising that he found himself way down the powerplay depth-chart under head coach Dan Bylsma, who was in his first year behind the bench for Buffalo. However, with his smarts and shot a real shot on the second power play unit could yield some very positive results.
With McCabe establishing his floor so early in his NHL career and with untapped offensive upside it's possible that this middle-pairing defenseman may be viewed as a #2/3, all-around d-man slotted into the second powerplay unit.
McCabe will be 25 yrs. old at the end of this contract, right at the beginning of his prime years and this is a great bridge contract for the Sabres. Not sure you can find a middle-pairing d-man with his qualities at a $1.8M cap-hit. They may end up paying on later on, but for now this looks to be one of those under the radar signings that will allow the team an immense amount of financial flexibility for the next three years.
Speaking of financial flexibility, the Sabres will need plenty of that if rumors of NY Islanders unrestricted free agent Kyle Okposo are true. The three-time 20 goal scoring winger is set to hit the open market today as one of the few top-end UFA's available. And we all know what that means.
Rumors have been swirling for a while now that Buffalo had Okposo on their radar as "Plan-B" should they miss out on Steven Stamkos. Which they did. And now as the clock creeps closer to 12:01 PM, serious numbers are being thrown around.
Keep in mind that Buffalo was said to be ready to throw $12M at Stamkos to lure him to town as owner Terry Pegula has never blinked at shelling out big-time money for a player. So when Renaud Lavoie spoke of an Okposo contract in the 7yr./$49M range on WGR550 earlier this morning, it shouldn't come as a surprise to hear that the Buffalo Sabres are a team willing to go that high and that far.
Those who think it's way too much will point to his penchant for injuries and his minus-60 rating as cause for alarm over a contract like that. Those of the opinion that he'd work well for the Sabres as a right wing for Jack Eichel will point to Okposo's goal-scoring prowess achieved in large part away from NY Islanders top center John Tavares and they'll rationalize that it's July 1 and you always overpay for free agents.
With the salary cap at $73M this season and with a high probability it will continue to increase over the course of at least the next few seasons, the Sabres can absorb the extra $1.5-2M premium they'll be paying this season. They'll be able to do it even more if they continue to sign their young RFA's to team-friendly contracts like they did with McCabe.
Should the Sabres be able to land Okposo they'll probably need to move a forward off of their roster to make some room, especisally if they're able to sign LW Jimmy Vesey whom they traded for last month. Also entering into the equation is RW Justin Bailey who had a strong finish to his first AHL campaign.
Perhaps we should keep an eye on Sabres89's "Zemgus Girgensons for Cam Fowler straight up" trade rumor.
Evander Kane made local headlines at the draft last weekend for an off-ice incident that involved a nightclub and a woman. The police report had Kane's offenses as harassment and 2nd-physical contact in an altercation that occurred at 3:11 A.M.
Buffalo fans were just getting over his winter altercation involving a woman when this occurred and many seem fed up. Not only that, former NHL tough-guy Georges Laraque was on WGR yesterday saying that the Sabres themselves have had enough and are looking to trade him.
Lavoie stated today that he heard nothing of the sort but qualified it by saying that he has different sources than Laraque so it can't be fully dismissed.
Kane has little if any trade value right now and I can't see GM Tim Murray pulling the trigger on a deal where he doesn't get anything of value in return. If that were the case, he might as well sit on Kane until the end of his contract in 2018 where he'll lose him to free agency anyway. In the two-year interim Murray can see if Kane grows up or there's always the possibility that the winger puts up numbers he's capable of in a 2017-18 contact year and they can move him at the trade deadline.
I don't know Kane personally, but I'm pretty sure a personality like him, with his style, looks and money will always attract the wrong attention when he puts himself in that 3:00 A.M. situation. What I do know is that there's a huge target on Kane's back as people are out there looking to antagonize and/or take advantage of a person like him. If a player of his stature waltzes into place with a royal aura about him, there are people, including women, who see that as opportunity.
In no way is this a defense of his actions, some of which may or may not have occurred. It's simply stating human nature.
Kane needs to be more aware of this and, if possible, find himself a spot where the potential for altercations is minimized. And he also needs to be aware of the company he keeps.
I'm not expecting professional athletes to be choir boys, nor did I ever tell my son to look to a professional athlete as a role model as most are too far removed from us common-folk. What Kane does with his personal life is his own business. How the Sabres view his actions and how they choose to address the issue, including whether or not it's too much of a headache, is their own business.
The only thing I've witnessed from Evander Kane first-hand is his actions on the ice. Coming off of season ending shoulder surgery in 2015 and potting 20 goals on one of the weaker teams in the league last season tells me he has more to offer on the ice. That he's still dumb enough to surround himself with people who will put him in those types of situations is cause for concern, but not mine.
I'm not sure how much of a party foul this latest incident was, and if he stepped over the line with this woman, my apologies to her, but the facts are not fully out and in no way, shape or form am I the one who will or should pass judgement. I was once a 24 yr. old with youthful braggadocio and there were times where I found myself in precarious situations. Only I didn't have quite what Kane has.