Published by hockeybuzz.com, 6-6-2017
Buffalo GM Jason Botterill rode into town with no ties to any player in the Sabres organization.
And that's a good thing.
When Botterill evaluates a player, eventually determining whether or not they'll fit into the type of team he wants to build, it will be with a set of fresh eyes. That's not to say that he has no idea as to what any of those players are made of, as he has spent time scouting various players within the organization when he was with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but, being devoid of any emotional attachment there's a clarity with which he can view them.
Botterill has no attachments to players like Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian, Josh Gorges and Robin Lehner, all of whom were acquired via trades by previous GM Tim Murray. He didn't sign Matt Moulson or re-sign Tyler Ennis nor did he draft Sam Reinhart with the second overall selection in the 2014 NHL Draft. Those in the group above represent individual question-marks for the team moving forward for one reason or another whether it be salary, term, inconsistencies, age, use and/or style of play.
In saying that, rumors are beginning to swirl that some in that group might be on the move. Botterill has a defense to fix and he may have a couple of pieces that will help get him closer to his goal. He also has a salary cap to fix as it's way to high for a 26th place team.
Solutions are on the horizon, but would you trade...?
Evander Kane for Los Angeles Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin?
As a staunch supporter of Kane I'd hate to see his north-south powerforward game leave Buffalo. I'm of the opinion that 28 goals isn't easy to replace and that a player like him--one with Eastern Conference speed and Western Conference truculence--should be a part of the core moving forward. But, there are a number of things working against him right now. The owners are very unhappy with his off-ice issues, especially the trouble he got into in Buffalo while they were hosting the draft. It's something that hasn't gone away. Murray was able to keep them at bay but with him gone, Kane may not be far behind.
But even with ownership out of the equation, Kane is entering the final year of his contract. No one knows how he feels about Buffalo and playing for the Sabres. He has a $5.25 million cap-hit and will be expecting a raise. He's also 25 yrs. old and may be looking for a long-term deal. None of that is good for Buffalo as there are too many question-marks with him right now.
Muzzin is a 28 yr. old, 2007 fifth-round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Botterill's former team. The 6'3" 216 lb. minute-eating defenseman went unsigned by Pittsburgh (while Botterill was in the front office,) went back into the draft, went undrafted and was signed by the Kings in January, 2010. He made the team the following season and slowly worked his way up, eventually finding himself on the Kings' top-pairing with Drew Doughty when they won the Stanley Cup. Since then the left-handed defenseman settled into a No. 3/2, all-around role and may be someone who'd look good opposite Rasmus Ristolainen on the top-pairing for now.
The Kings are looking for offense and even though the Sabres sure could use more as well, defense seems to be a more pressing need at this point. This would be a good hockey trade between the two clubs but it may not even come down to that as the ultimate reasoning. In hiring Botterill ownership was looking for a culture change and Kane might not fit in with what they're looking for. A trade like this might be just what the doctor ordered.
From this blogger's perspective, the trade is an easy move to make if Kane was unwilling to re-sign for a reasonable amount and term. But if the team could work out a two or three-year deal in the $6 million/year range, I'd like to see what he could do under a different coaching staff.