In February of 2015, Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray traded a king's ransom for a player he hoped could score 30-goals in a blue and gold sweater. That player was Evander Kane, who as of late, has been one of the hottest players in the league, scoring 21 goals since December 1.
For those of us that struggle with math, Kane is on pace to finish with 30 goals this season in 70 games. Not bad, especially when you consider that he didn’t score in his first 11 games, following a return from an injury that kept him out of the lineup the first month of the season. If you take Kane’s current production and extrapolate it over an entire 82-game-season, he would be on pace to finish with 36 goals.
So why do so many fans want Kane traded? It can be broken down into three major ideas:
1) His stock has never been higher
2) Off-ice concerns
3) Longevity with the Sabres organization
Let’s look into these questions, shall we?
1) "His stock has neve been higher"
- It may not be fair to assume that his play will drastically decline over the next year, and quite frankly, it would be a surprise. In his career, Kane has been streaky, but maybe, just maybe, he's figured it all out.
If you look at the advanced stats, a *small* drop-off in production for the remainder of the season and/or next year would be understandable, but a massive slip doesn’t appear likely -- at least according to the numbers.
This season Kane is scoring on 12.7-percent of his shots. He and first-year Sabre Kyle Okposo are tied for second on the team in the category, trailing only Nick Baptiste, who sports a 13.8 shooting percentage [only 14 games played.]
The league average is 9.09-percent, so even if Kane was shooting at the league average, he would have 18 goals in 48 games played, which would still surpass the 30-goal plateau in an 82-game-season.
There’s not a huge drop off when adjusting Kane's shooting percentage because Kane throws pucks to the net all the time. He’s basically JR Smith. Sometimes Kane’s shots aren’t great scoring chances, but every once in a while they still find the back of the net. Don’t kid yourselves: It doesn’t hurt that lately he’s been on a line with Jack Eichel, either. The two complement each other well, which is a bit odd, because both play better with the puck.
As a team, the Sabres don’t score a ton of goals, so losing Kane’s production would be a big blow. Even with the Sabres recent scoring "spark", they have the third-fewest goals in the Eastern Conference, only behind the New Jersey Devils and Carolina Hurricanes. That’s not exactly great company.
2) "Off-ice concerns"
- There’s really no way to answer whether or not Kane will stay out of trouble. His behavior is the wild card when it comes to all of this.
That being said, other teams are fully aware of Kane’s history and that will have an impact on what they’re willing to give up in any potential offers. If Kane is able to stay out of trouble for the next few months, those concerns from the outside may not be as large, meaning the Sabres might be able to get a bigger haul if they decide to move him.
3) "Longevity with the Sabres organization"
- The Sabres didn’t trade for Kane so the 25-year-old winger could play two seasons with a mediocre hockey team. Murray made the move so that Kane could be a part of the team that ended the Sabres' playoff drought, and possibly, contend for a Stanley Cup.
As for a long-term contract, Kane hasn’t addressed his future with Buffalo past next season, so no one really knows what he’s thinking.
If the Sabres don’t think they can get a long-term deal done, they can always move Kane at next year’s deadline. Though, his value may not be as high because of an expiring contract.
Plenty of fans have chimed in and said that the Sabres won't be able to afford Kane because the team needs to extend Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. It's a fair argument, but if they can rid themselves of some 'bad' contracts, then keeping Kane is a possibility.
Here are some of the cap hits similar to Kane next year, courtesy Spotrac.
-Evander Kane -- $5.25M
-Zach Bogosian -- $5.14M
-Tyler Ennis -- $4.65M
-Rasmus Ristolainen -- $5.4M
-Matt Moulson -- $5.0M
If the Sabres decide to part ways with Kane, the crop of replacements is quite intriguing. This list will certainly change in the next few months when clubs start extending players, but for now, it's fun to look at the options.
Notable UFA’s in 2018 include:
-John Tavares, New York Islanders
-Evander Kane, Buffalo Sabres
-Rick Nash, New York Rangers
-James Neal, Nashville Predators
-Jack Johnson, Columbus Blue Jackets
-Marc-Edouard Vlasic, San Jose Sharks
-Cam Fowler, Anaheim Ducks
-John Carlson, Washington Capitals
-Cam Atkinson, Columbus Blue Jackets
-J.T. Miller, New York Rangers
-Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Of all these players Kane is still one of the youngest, making his future that much more compelling.
So what should Murray do?
Should the #Sabres trade Evander Kane? (I'm picking answer 3)
— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) February 24, 2017
To trade, or not to trade, that is the question.
Murray should keep Kane...unless given a Don Corleone offer that can’t be refused.
Buffalo's biggest need is on the blueline and the Sabres desperately need at least one more top-four defenseman.
Here's the thing: Their second-weakest position is at left wing, and that's where Kane plays. If you take Kane out of the mix that leaves you with the likes of Matt Moulson to fill the void.
To get good players you have to give up good players/assets. That's the way it works. Sorry to disappoint all of the Mike Weber, Tyler Ennis and a second round pick enthusiasts out there.
It is Murray's job to listen to offers and make the Sabres a better team. If he can add a player or package that accomplishes that, then Kane should be sent elsewhere. If he can't then the Sabres should keep their leading scorer.
It's actually a pretty simple concept.