TSN insider Darren Dreger joined the Instigators in his usual Friday spot and before they were finished he was directed towards Buffalo Sabres players in the rumor mill. Dreger, as with everyone these days, immediately went to Evander Kane like a moth to a flame. Dreger said that there's still trade talk around the league and that he's "sure that (new GM) Jason Botterill and the Buffalo Sabres are deeply involved in some of that."
But the big name for Buffalo is Kane and Dreger said, "[There's] much specutlation about where he might end up. How eager is Botterill and the Sabres to move him?" Dreger would mention a couple of destinations later on in the segment like Anaheim and San Jose, both of whom are aging teams"who are kind of in 'win-now' mode," but he stressed that it's pure speculation.
The interesting aspect of Dreger's Kane discussion was less about moving him and/or the troubles he may have had and more about the hole he'd leave in Buffalo were he to be traded. "The problem that Buffalo has in moving Kane is," began Dreger, "now you have a pretty big hole on that left side. That's not to say they're reluctant to trade him. Maybe they have pieces who can fill that void, or they can acquire something in return. Or they can make another transaction. Or they can sign a free agent."
Dreger said that the hosts would know more about who might fill the void internally, and in looking at the Sabres roster and what's in the system, I don't see a top-six 25-30 goal scorer anywhere. They've tried a couple of centers in that role including Tyler Ennis, Zemgus Girgensons and tried the slow-footed Matt Moulson there while also promoting a bottom-six player (Marcus Foligno) for a rather long, somewhat productive stint there. In the system they have Will Carrier, who may or may not be capable as the sample size of 41 NHL games is still very small, and 19 yr. old Alexander Nylander who just finished his rookie pro season.
As for the other two notions, if Kane is traded, one could almost bet the farm that a defenseman will be coming back in return and as we look at the free agent market this season some of the better players are all in their 30's and would be a better fit on teams
Evander Kane is 25 yrs. old and coming off of a strong, 28-goal season. Like Dreger said, moving him would create a big hole and on the Sabres that kind of production, especially when he did nearly all of his scoring 5v5, is hard to replace.
The Kane situation, like the player himself, is complicated right now in that there are a number of variables. If Kane does get moved, there's a feeling that he'd create a big hole on the left side for the Sabres constructed as is and it will take some work and some pretty smooth maneuvering to fill it.
Dreger's counterpart at TSN, Bob McKenzie, tweeted today, "Barring any last-minute hiccups, FLA and Bob Boughner are closing in on a deal for him to be the Panthers' new head coach."
The Panthers and the Sabres are the only two teams in the NHL without a head coach at this juncture and it would seem as if they were both interested in only a handful of candidates. Buffalo had already interviewed Boughner, according to reports, and it's somewhat of a surprise that he's slated to take over the Panthers bench. Many thought that they were the front-runner for Nashville Predators assistant coach Phil Housley and they, like the Sabres, would wait until after the Stanley Cup Finals to interview Housley before making a decision.
A move like that bodes well for Housley landing in Buffalo, but we should not count out Pittsburgh Penguins assistant coach Rick Tocchet. Buffalo GM Jason Botterill and Tocchet worked together in Pittsburgh the last few years and both are very familiar with each other. As the Sabres start anew with a philosophy borne of Botterill and the Championship team he helped build in Pittsburgh, one would thing that Tocchet would be able to help transfer that philosophy to the KeyBank ice.
The latest the Finals can conclude is Thursday, June 14th which means by this time next weekend Buffalo should know who their coach is. Speculation here is that Housley is now the front-runner for the Sabres spot.
The Stanley Cup Finals are probably holding up things in the trade market right now. Dreger suggested, as have many others, the a respect for the league's premier product has teams taking a back seat until they're completed.
Which is cool.
Come next Friday and Saturday I wouldn't be surprise to hear a number of deals involving the Las Vegas Golden Knights as they gear up for the expansion draft. Teams are required to submit their protected list by 5 p.m. June 17 and the Knight will then have a weekend window to look them over and see what else is available on the free agent market. Come June 20 they will have their roster in place and the following night it will be announced at the NHL Awards Ceremony held in Sin City.
Could one of the deals involve Buffalo? Many hope so. One of the keys for the Sabres will be to hopefully unload a undesirable contract whilst keeping the players they want. It may cost them a third, or even second round pick in the upcoming draft, but the have an extra one in each round anyway.
That said, my original protected list exposed as much salary to the Golden Knights as possible while retaining young players like Will Carrier and Linus Ullmark, both of whom have plenty of upside and have been paying their dues in the system.
Buffalo has one slot to protect on defense and hopefully they'll use it to protect an incoming top-four d-man. If Botterill can't bring one in, then it will probably go to Justin Falk, who did yeoman's work for the Sabres in a bottom-pairing/reserve role.