Published by hockeybuzz.com, 5-23-2018
Word coming out of San Jose is that former Sabres winger Evander Kane is about to sign a contract extension with the Sharks. The former 4th-overall pick in 2009 (Atlanta Thrashers) was traded by Buffalo to San Jose at the 2018 NHL traded deadline as the Sharks were bolstering their team for a playoff run.
The 26 yr. old Kane spent eight seasons in the NHL with Atlanta/Winnipeg Jets franchise and the Sabres but never appeared in a playoff game. However he hit the ice flying this post season scoring two goals in his first playoff appearance while helping the Sharks sweep the Anaheim Ducks in the first round. San Jose would run into the buzzsaw that is the expansion Vegas Golden Knights in round two as the Sharks lost the series in six games. He finished his first-ever playoffs with four goals and one assist in nine games.
At 6'2" 212 lbs. Kane has NHL size and he also has great north/south speed making for an intriguing powerforward package. He scored a career-high 30 goals for Atlanta in the 2011-12 season and hit the 20-goal mark all three seasons he played in Buffalo while leading the team with 28 goals in 2016-17.
Former Sabres GM Tim Murray traded for Kane back in February, 2015 in the first of two blockbuster deals that year. Murray sent defenseman Tyler Myers, forward Drew Stafford, prospects Joel Armia and Brendan Lemieux plus a 2015 first round pick which turned into Jack Roslovic (25th-oveall) to Winnipeg for Kane, defenseman Zach Bogosian and goalie prospect Jason Kasdorf.
Kane had been on Murray's radar ever since he was a scout and when the opportunity came to trade for him, Murray pulled the trigger. When the trade was consummated Murray told the gathered media, "He's gonna be a big part of any success we have here, I believe. You watch him play on the ice, he plays hard, he plays in traffic, he doesn't play a perimeter game, he plays a heavy game, he scores goals from around the net, he plays the game right.
"He finishes checks, he's a good fighter. That's his character on the ice."
Those last three words, "on the ice," would represent a huge qualifier.
Kane had problems in Winnipeg away from the ice something which Murray also addressed during the same presser. "[Sabres owner Terry Pegula] asked questions and I answered them truthfully and to the best of my ability. It wasn't all unicorns and rainbows and juju's," Murray said of Kane's issues. "it never is with any player. Players have warts. The best players have warts and I can tell you the best of the very best of players had warts. It's just what it is. [Pegula] listened, asked questions, he wants to be informed and then he told me to do what I felt was best.
"I made a trade for Kane so I'm not worried about his character."
That would come back to bite Murray as Kane had three off-ice incidents in a seven month span during his first full season in Buffalo. Those incidents included a sexual assault accusation (December 27, 2015) and an unexcused missed practice after hanging with the NBA All-Stars in Toronto on February 15, 2016 and the big one, on June, 2016 while Buffalo was hosting the NHL Draft. Kane got into an early-morning bar encounter and eventually turned himself into police. He faced criminal charges and was booked on one count of misdemeanor trespassing and other charges for which he was eventually sentence to six months probation.
That apparently was enough for the Pegulas as they were said to want no part of Kane when his contract was up this year.
Such was the situation new Sabres GM Jason Botterill walked into this season with Kane. Word came early that the powerfoward was on the block and Botterill eventually traded Kane to the Sharks. There were rumors that Botterill could have pulled the trigger in December for better return than he got but he ended up waiting it out and got bit. At the 2018 trade deadline Botterill traded Kane to the Sharks for conditional second and fourth round picks in 2019 as it was said that San Jose was the only suitor.
That second round pick would convert to a first-rounder if either the Sharks won the Stanley Cup this season or Kane signed a contract extension with the Sharks, which is where we stand right now. If the rumors of Kane re-signing in San Jose are true, that second-rounder converts to a first.
Even with the probable signing there are still conditions with both picks. That 2019 first rounder is lottery protected and would be pushed to 2020 should the Sharks miss the playoffs next season. San Jose also has the option to push the 2019 fourth-rounder back a year in which case Buffalo would receive a 2020 third round pick.
If all this rings true, it will essentially close the book on the Buffalo portion of Kane's career. It's too bad that things didn't work out for him in Buffalo as his departure left a gaping hole on the left side something that Botterill needs to address this off season.
With Buffalo's lefts side bereft of top-six talent, many feel that the Sabres should make a trade from a position of strength down the middle for a top-six winger. Buffalo's depth down the middle begins with Jack Eichel and flows to Ryan O'Reilly, prospect Casey Mittelstadt, Evan Rodrigues and a number of players like prospects Sean Malone and Rasmus Asplund who are looked at as bottom-six centers.
The ascension of Mittelstadt to a probable top-six center only a year removed from the NCAA, puts Buffalo in a favorable position at center and dependent upon what they want to do with the forward group, one of them, including Mittelstadt and Rodrigues, could be moved to left wing in the top-six. Botterill and Sabres head coach Phil Housley could also move O'Reilly to the left side, a spot he played before in Colorado or they could use the top-two center as a major piece in landing a bona fide left-winger.
Top-two centers are hard to come by in the NHL and if any fanbase knows it, those of us in Sabreland certainly do. A few years back the Sabres were so desperate for a top-two center that they signed Ville Leino to a very lucrative long-term deal thinking he could fill that role. It was an unmitigated disaster that the team is still paying for Leino as his 2014 compliance buyout has him collecting $1.2 million until 2019-20 not to play for Buffalo.
The Sabres did some major focusing on centers during the last six drafts selecting two in the first round in 2012 (Mikhail Grigorenko, 12th-overall and Zemgus Girgensons, 14th,) while landing Sam Reinhart second overall in 2014 and Eichel second-overall in 2015. Murray also bolstered the position at the 2015 NHL Draft when he traded for O'Reilly (in another blockbuster deal) and Botterill pulled off a relative coup in snagging Mittelstadt with the eighth-overall pick last year.
We're not sure whether a player like O'Reilly is even available but for all intents and purposes we're going off the assumption that there are only a few untouchables right now--Eichel, the 2018 first-overall pick and probably Mittelstadt.
We're also not sure what's available from other teams but word on the street is that two teams are looking hard at centers and both may have left-wingers available in a trade. The Montreal Canadians are said to be in that group as are the Carolina Hurricanes.
Chip Alexander of the News and Observer in Carolina came out today and asked the question, "Has Jeff Skinner played his last game for the Carolina Hurricanes?"
Skinner was drafted seventh-overall in 2010 by the Hurricanes and won the Calder Trophy (over San Jose's Logan Couture) as rookie of the year that season. The 5'11" 200 lb. left-shooting winger has played in 579 games for Carolina scoring 204 goals and 379 points. He's in the final year of a 6yr./$34.350 million contract signed on August 8, 2012 which also, according to CapFriendly.com, contains a no-movement clause.
Alexander writes "speculation continues to grow that Skinner, the Canes’ most consistent goal-scorer the past eight seasons, could be traded by the team" and he also points out that the 26 yr. old native of Toronto, Ontario just switched agents from Rick Curran of the Orr Hockey Group and hired Don Meehan of Newport Sports Management. According to Alexander, Meehan has not had any discussions with new 'Canes GM Don Waddell concerning Skinner and says that two will meet in Buffalo during the NHL Combine which begins on Sunday.
Which is rather convenient for the Sabres. Not only will those two be hashing things out in Buffalo with Botterill and Buffalo hosting the event, but Meehan is also O'Reilly's agent as well. This is not to say that something will occur but it provides fertile ground for a potential trade to grow and the opportunity for every side to get a feel for what everyone else is thinking.
One of the things Botterill said at his end of season presser was that the team was looking for speed on the wing and Skinner has that, plus he has the smarts and sniping ability to hang with and flourish next to a player like Eichel.
If Skinner were available any speculation would be mute if he were to put Buffalo on his no-trade list and even if a trade were consummated a contract extension would need to be reached possibly beforehand to assure he remained in the fold.
Alexander quotes Skinner as saying after the season,“I like it here, I want to win here,” but "you have to be open-minded to everything. That’s why you have agents and advisers.”
We've heard quotes like that before with the player eventually getting moved. A trade between Carolina and Buffalo with Skinner and O'Reilly as the primary pieces makes a lot of sense for both clubs. But does it make sense to Waddell and Botterill?