Published by hockeybuzz.com, 2-27-2018
Much like the NHL's "free agent frenzy" in July and the NFL's annual October trade deadline, the NHL's own traded deadline came and went with very little going on. With the league getting younger NHL GM's whose team is either in a playoff chase or a Stanley Cup chase generally held on to their picks rather than blow them on rentals. Even a usual late-day throng of traded involving depth players, of which the Sabres had plenty, for low round picks never materialized.
Those who'd spent a majority of their morning and afternoon locked into the NHL's trade deadline day wasted hours for little, and for those in Sabreland hoping for moves to help them in the future were left wanting.
Buffalo only made one trade yesterday as GM Jason Botterill sent Evander Kane to the San Jose' Sharks for a conditional second round pick, a conditional fourth-rounder and prospect Daniel O'Regan. The second round pick is in 2019 and will turn into a first if either a.) Kane re-signs with the Sharks in the off season or b.) the Sharks win the Stanley Cup. As for the fourth-rounder, it's a 2019 pick that San Jose' can push to 2020 in which case it turns into a third round pick.
The trading of Kane was inevitable, as Buffalo wasn't going to re-sign him. Why they wouldn't re-up a 26 yr. old powerforward who had three consecutive 20-goals seasons with the club is varied and we'll throw a few reasons out there.
First off, this is Kane's big chance to land, quite possibly, the final lucrative contract of his career. No one knows what he and his agent are looking for, but it might be safe to assume that he'd like the security of another long-term deal that could land in the $40-50 million range. The Sabres right now are bogged down by some hefty contracts with term in those of Ryan O'Reilly, Kyle Okposo and Zach Bogosian and in addition, Jack Eichel's 8yr./$80 million contract kicks in beginning next season. Hard to see them adding another on in Kane without moving out at least one they're on the hook for.
There's always the question of what Kane might do off the ice that is troublesome. Kane has had a checkered past dating back to his days in Winnipeg and it didn't help that he had three incidents in a seven-month span with the Sabres which included an incident at the 2016 NHL Draft held in Buffalo that embarrassed the organization. He's kept his nose clean off the ice but there still was the recent spat where, according to reports from the rink, of defenseman Justin Falk going after Kane at practice and yelling "shut the (expletive) up you selfish (expletive)."
And then there's also a sense that ownership didn't want him on the team anymore. The Draft incident was said to have really rubbed owners Terry and Kim Pegula the wrong way with rumors stating that under no circumstances would Kane be re-signed. There were also suggestions that former GM Tim Murray had a difficult time keeping one of his prized acquisitions in the fold during the time after the 2016 Draft.
The official response as to why Kane was traded came from Botterill as he addressed the gathered media yesterday evening.
“As a result of where we are in the standings, we have to make changes to our organization,” Botterill told reporters at KeyBank Center. "The group that we have right now is not working.
“I’m not putting all the blame on Evander Kane,” he said. “There’s a lot of blame to go around – coaching staff, management, players. We have to be better in certain situations. The bottom line is the mix we had right now isn’t working, so we had to make adjustments.”
Botterill was asked if the Pegula's had any input in the Kane decision and the GM offered up a flat-out, "no."
Perhaps teams looking at Kane as a rental knew the full situation, or perhaps they knew that his past along with Buffalo's cap-situation would mean landing a premium rental like Kane at a bargain price. Whatever the reason(s), the serious offers weren't with Botterill saying, "The bottom line is we had one legitimate offer for Evander.”
A situation like that doesn't bode well for a max return in the trade and leaves the door wide open for second-guessing Botterill as to why he waited so long to make the trade. Kane was a supposed hot commodity through December, but the first-time GM held out. No one really knows whether or not Botterill had legit offers on the table, but in many cases the best trades are done before the trade deadline.
For those ready to jump off the Peace Bridge because Kane didn't get a first rounder in return, all is not lost. The San Jose' Sharks did well in protecting their interests which included GM Doug Wilson entering the deadline stating that he wasn't planning on giving up top picks or prospects for rentals. If Kane turns out to be a rental it's only a second rounder but if they sign him after the season, giving up a first rounder along with two mid-level pieces makes him more than a rental and doesn't disrupt that school of thought. And it sounds as if Wilson would give serious consideration to re-singing in the off season.
For this season, San Jose' is in the midst of a playoff race with a team that's in the middle of the NHL in scoring right now. Last season they finished 10th in scoring but lost 27 goals and 46 points when Patrick Marleau signed a free agent contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs last July. Although Marleau (now 38 yrs. old) is nearing the tail end of his career, that's still a big chunk of scoring they're missing. In addition, Joe Thornton has been sidelined by a knee injury since Jan. 23 and is still recovering. He's expected to be back by the end of the regular season. The 38 yr. old had 13 goals and 36 points in 47 games before the injury.
With Marleau gone and Thornton not getting any younger, the opportunity to land a scoring winger like Kane, who's in the middle of his prime, was very attractive to Wilson as was the "nickles on the dollar," as one San Jose' writer put it, he paid for him. "I go back to the skillset that he brings and the age that he brings," said Wilson to the local media yesterday, "sop he does bring the ingredients that fit for now and the future."
Wilson was also smart in that he and his staff will have the opportunity to see Kane up close and judge for themselves as to whether they want to move forward with him. "The way the (trade) is structured," he said, "allows us to have flexibility for him to get to know us and for us to get to know him.
"Get him in hers, let's get to know each other and we'll go from there."
Of note, the Sharks will have $20 million in cap-space next season, according to CapFriendly, with a young core and d-corps locked in save for a couple RFA's. They'll have even more if the salary cap increases from the present $75 million ceiling.
As for Kane, he'll be entering an environment that's been a model of consistency for the past 20 seasons as they've missed the playoffs only twice in that span. Which is good for him considering he's never been on a playoff team in his nine-year career. Northern California has a lot to offer and that includes being a stones throw from his Vancouver, BC hometown. The hockey atmosphere in San Jose' is great with "The Shark Tank" being one of the loudest arenas in the league.
If it's a match, then it will work out for all involved, including the Sabres, maybe not as much as some in Sabreland had hoped for, but it will have worked out.
Wilson was able to hang on to his top prospects like Timo Meier, Josh Norris and Joakim Ryan in the deal and instead sent forward Daniel O'Regan to the Sabres in the Kane trade.
O'Regan was selected 138th-overall in the 2012 NHL Draft by San Jose' and was the AHL's Rookie of the Year last season after scoring 56 points (22+34) in 64 games for the San Jose' Barracuda. In 22 NHL games he scored one goal and added four assists.
The 5'10" 185 lb. O'Regan spent his senior season at Boston University playin on a line with Jack Eichel and Evan Rodrigues, both of whom play for the Sabres. Eichel was the second-overall pick int the 2015 NHL Draft while Rodrigues was a free agent signing out of college that year.
Will they be reunited? Maybe for a game this season, but O'Regan will be headed to Rochester, at least initially, to help a struggling Amerks team maintain or better their position in the standings. Although Rochester is still in a playoff spot, they've been slipping as of late.
Kris Baker of sabresprospects.com and sabres.com made an interesting point about O'Regan filling a void left when forward Stevie Moses bolted for the KHL. Moses just up and left on December 22 and was suspended by team for "breach of contract" after he signed a two-year contract with Helsingin Jokerit.
The Amerks were riding high in December with a 17-6-3-3 record and challenging the Toronto Marlies for division supremacy. Since then they're only 10-9-5-3, have dropped to third in the division and sixth-overall in the Eastern Conference.
O'Regan is of no help to the Sabres this year but his 25 points (7+18) will certainly help bolster the Amerks forward group.
The 2018 NHL Trade Deadline was pretty lame for all intents and purposes (save for a few teams) and no doubt the lack of active teams looking for rentals, hurt the return for Kane. In all, according to Sportsnet.ca, "16 trades, 31 players dealt, 18 draft picks moved, and $30.8 million in salaries exchanged." They also noted that five first round picks were exchanged.
As usual there was seems to have been some foolishness as Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee traded a first, second and third in consecutive years beginning this June to the Detroit Red Wings for forward Tomas Tatar. The Nashville Predators sent a first round pick plus two other pieces to the Chicago Blackhawks for forward Ryan Hartman and a fifth-round pick. The 23 yr. old Hartman played a modest role for the Hawks and has 27 goals in 147 games. And although there were some minor deals, none involved any Sabres' depth players.
Nor did any team make a trade for either of their goalies.
So tonight when they take on the juggernaut that is the Tampa Bay Lightning, who strengthened an already strong team with the acquisition of NY Rangers defenseman (and team captain) Ryan McDonough, the Sabres will have the same lineup they've been using the past two games.
Twenty games to go, Sabres fans.