Published by hockeybuzz.com, 3-13-2017
Buffalo Sabres left wing Evander Kane has played his way into a contract extension with the team. Scoring 25 goals and looking every bit the powerforward he's always been touted as has brought the conversation in Sabreland from "trade him for a bag of pucks!" to "will he want to re-sign in Buffalo? And for how much?" Because of Kane's exceptional season, it won't come cheap for Buffalo GM Tim Murray, but then again, nothing ever worth having does.
Kane still has one year remaining on his old contract which comes in at a $5.25 million dollar cap-hit.
Dollars and term are the big hurdles for the team and player, but I'm going to get this out of the way right now and say based upon his past history which includes off-ice incidents and solid but not premier production between 2011-12 when he scored 30 goals and this year where he' on a pace to equal that (which amounts to 21 goals/season,) dancing around that $7 million/year average seems a big high. A cap-hit of $6 million would be about right using that past history, however $6.5 million might very well be where this all ends up.
In looking ahead to the 2018-19 season, Murray has a few huge factors working in his favor when it comes to cap-management--some dead weight will be off the books by then, he will have a trove of forwards filling in at low cap-hits around his core group and two of his longer-term, top-four d-men, which includes Rasmus Ristolainen on the top pair, will account for a combined $7 million cap-hit.
Before we get to Kevin Shattenkirk who may end up signing a long-term deal somewhere (maybe Buffalo) for $6.5-7 million, let's take a look at the potential forward group heading into the 2018-19 season. There will be two players for sure on the team moving forward: Ryan O'Reilly and Kyle Okposo. Matt Moulson and Tyler Ennis will be in the final year of their contracts and I can't see either being on the team at that point. Moulson looks to be a sure buyout candidate after this season and if Tyler Ennis can stay healthy enough his $3.65m salary but $4.6m cap-hit could be enough incentive for a team looking to get to the cap floor to take him off of Buffalo's hands.
In adding to the forward group we'll go high on Eichel and put him at an $8m cap-hit while Reinhart may be in the $4m range, which is a pretty hefty hike. The rest of the roster can be filled in using the present lineup which includes a lot of youthful speed and talent.
Here's how the forward group would stack up with Eichel at the top of the food chain and the rest falling in place behind him:
Approximate cap-hit forwards: $44.6 million
On defense the Sabres will need a significant upgrade and Shattenkirk may be their ticket. With him and Ristolainen anchoring the right side, Jake McCabe and Brendan Guhle will probably be rounding out the top-four on the left side. Zach Bogosian who is under contract through the end of 2019-20 is a big question mark as his $5.14 million cap-hit makes things extremely tight, but here goes with him in the lineup:
Approx. total cap hit d-men: $21.5m
I'm of the opinion that Murray will be able to re-sign goalie Robin Lehner to a contract that won't exceed a $3m cap-hit and that for the 2018-19 season either Linus Ullmark or Cal Petersen will be his back-up. My bet is on Ullmark (if he's not taken in the upcoming expansion draft) which leaves us with a goalie tandem of:
Total for goalies: $3.9m
Grand total for the entire roster: $70 million
Add in Moulson's approximate buyout number of $2.83 (according to cap friendly.com) and the grand total for this roster as constructed in 2018-19 is about $73 million which is this year's NHL salary cap.
Add in that the cap will probably go up anywhere from $3-5 million in the next two years and the Sabres will be in good shape using the players and numbers laid out above.