Friday, May 26, 2017

Evander Kane dilemma a tough one, but it can work in Buffalo

Published by, 5-25-2017

Buffalo Sabres winger Evander Kane's NHL career has spanned eight seasons in three cities for two franchises. As a fourth-overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft expectations were high for the Vancouver native and product of the hometown Vancouver Giants and after hitting a career high in goals those expectations got even higher.

In three seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers, Kane's production rose to a 30-goal, 57-point season (in 70 games) and he was heralded as a premier powerforward that could skate, score, hit and fight. Those traits lead to Kane cashing in on a rather lucrative six-year, $31.5 million contract of which he has one year remaining.

Kane entering the final year of his contract poses a dilemma for the Sabres as his many positives on the ice are offset by his troubles away from the rink. Part of those troubles revolve around the image he likes to exude which at times resembles that of a sharp, well-dressed playboy with a touch of gansta. It landed him in hot water in Winnipeg after the Atlanta franchise moved there and he just finished a stint on probation in Buffalo for an incident last summer.

Such is the dichotomy of Evander Kane.

As we move further into the 2017 off-season, once again Kane's name his making the rounds in the rumor mill. Elliott Friedman (via WGR550) was on CHED 630 in Edmonton saying, according to GR, "it's now or never for a Kane trade." And it's true, with his contract running out after next season and with Kane coming off of a 28-goal campaign, if they aren't able to come to terms on a contract extension, now is the time to trade him.

But who wants Kane? At what price? And what does it do to the Sabres roster?

TSN's Darren Dreger was on MSG's The Instigators and had this to say about Kane and possible destinations, "Keep in mind that general managers, because of the salary cap really not going up much on an annual basis, they’re wary. They’ve very careful in how they spend their dollars and when you’re bringing in a contract you’ve got to be absolutely rock-solid sure that this is a player that is going to be worth it. That he’s going to give you whatever edge you need, who’s going to make you better to be a playoff contender or a Stanley Cup contender. 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."

Another factor for potential suitors might be whether or not a new team would want to, or even could, sign him to an extension and all of that makes for a diminished return.

What it really may come down to is how Kane feels about playing in Buffalo. From everything I've read and heard, he likes Buffalo and his on-ice production may be an indication that he feels comfortable on skating with the likes of Jack Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly and company. If he likes Buffalo, great. And if Buffalo likes him, that's great too.

However, despite his uptick in production, Kane still has a lot of work to do convincing Buffalo and the hockey world that he's finally matured. At 25 years old and with a big contract already under his belt, his street-suave image can surely be maintained no matter what happens in the near future, but does he have enough savvy to stay out of trouble outside the rink while projecting that image?

Ownership in Buffalo doesn't need or want deal with issues like that and one could reasonably assume that neither does new GM Jason Botterill. There's a trust factor involved and Kane to this point hasn't held up his part of the deal.

In that respect, and when you throw in that Kane has had injury issues that have limited his on-ice performance prior to and including this past season, it's hard to see the Buffalo Sabres offering Kane a long-term deal. A player entering his third contract with nearly 500 games played, while also coming off a strong season, is probably expecting a long-term, cash-in contract, but is Kane worth something like that to Buffalo or even another club who might trade for him?

Ideally, Kane and the Sabres can come to a shorter-term agreement that ups his annual salary a bit from the $5.25 million he now makes. In order for that to happen, Kane will need to agree that based upon his past, now is not the time to be thinking lucrative, long-term. For a guy who once posted a picture of himself doing pushups in Las Vegas with stacks of money on his back, it's seems like a difficult proposition. But with his past history, Kane simply shouldn't expect a lucrative, long-term contract from any NHL team.

Is he irreplaceable? No. But will he be difficult to replace? Probably. And it may end up doing more harm than good. If Kane is moved, the Sabres will have another hole to fill in their roster. Although we've heard of a youngster like Alex Nylander taking his spot and recently someone suggested bringing Thomas Vanek in to replace Kane, neither would bring what Kane does.

Perhaps a shorter three or four-year deal with a modest bump in salary with the Sabres will do both him and the team well. It would put him on solid footing moving forward with the potential to cash-in a bit down the road and it will also keep Buffalo from possibly committing to a "problem child" long-term.

It can work, but it'll take some work from both sides.

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