Didn’t take long for Buffalo to address the biggest issue in acquiring Evander Kane.
“I made a trade for him, so I’m not worried about his character,” Sabres GM Tim Murray said on Wednesday, in the wake of his blockbuster trade that sent Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia and Brendan Lemieux to Winnipeg in exchange for Kane and Zach Bogosian.
“It wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows. All players have warts.”
True, but not many are as visible as Kane’s.
He was a lightning rod for controversy during his time in Winnipeg, and things reached their breaking point last week when he skipped a game in his hometown of Vancouver following an alleged altercation with teammate Dustin Byfuglien. Shortly thereafter, Kane opted for season-ending surgery on his injured shoulder, which many saw as him “sticking it” to the Jets — an accusation his agent shot down.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Craig Oster told Sportsnet’s FAN 590 radio. “I don’t think any person, let alone player, wants to have surgery. This isn’t an insignificant surgery. This is a significant surgery.
“We’re hopeful and assuming that it all goes well. But if it doesn’t, it’s a significant issue in Evander’s career. So there’s no impetus here for Evander to get surgery, other than completely health-related.”
The fact Oster had to defend such allegations was telling. Fairly or not, Kane’s reputation took a beating over the last few seasons and, subsequently, some the first questions asked of Murray were about whether Kane could fit into the Sabres’ room.
This could be where one of last summer’s key free agent acquisitions comes in, however, as Buffalo captain Brian Gionta sounds as though he’ll play a major role in welcoming Kane to the team:
Gionta on Kane: He’ll be accepted & brought into the room. It’s great to have a guy of his skill set. No preconceived notions. #BUFtrade
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) February 11, 2015
At 36, Gionta’s experienced and has seen enough to know how to handle a variety of situations — remember, he was the captain in Montreal during the tumultuous 2011-12 campaign, in which the Habs came under fire for dismissing Jacques Martin and hiring a non-French-speaking head coach in Randy Cunneyworth.
But Gionta might not have all that much to do. The Sabres sound like they’re ready to make embrace Kane regardless of his past because, as Murray explained, such talent is hard to come by.
“I think [Kane] is one of the most dynamic players in the National Hockey League,” Murray said, per the Sabres’ website. “And you don’t get a chance to acquire people like that very often.”