Evander Kane

Sabres cash in their suffering, take Eichel second overall

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SUNRISE — One of the worst seasons in NHL history paid off today for the Buffalo Sabres.

With the second overall pick in the 2015 draft, the Sabres selected forward Jack Eichel, the Boston University phenom that NHL Central Scouting ranked No. 2 among North American skaters. He was ranked behind only Connor McDavid, who went to the Oilers first overall.

Eichel enters the NHL with great expectations. He’s been called a franchise player, even garnering the “generational” label, along with McDavid.

The Sabres finished the 2014-15 season with a 23-51-8 record. Their 54 points were the fewest in the league, two fewer than Arizona managed. They had the worst offense, the worst power play, the worst penalty kill, and the second-worst goals-against average. They were accused of tanking. Often.

Now it’s time to start the ascension. With Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly, Zach Bogosian, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Robin Lehner, Sabres fans may not have to suffer much longer.

Related: Get to know a draft pick — Jack Eichel

Tim Murray would have said you were ‘high on mushrooms’ if you’d said he could get Eichel, Kane, and Lehner for three first-round picks

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Early contender for quote of the day, courtesy Sabres GM Tim Murray:

This morning, Buffalo acquired Robin Lehner and David Legwand from Ottawa, in return for the 21st pick in today’s draft.

In February, Murray swung a blockbuster trade for Evander Kane. Part of that deal included the 25th pick in today’s draft going to Winnipeg.

And, of course, the Sabres are expected in a few hours to draft Jack Eichel with the second overall pick.

Related: Day after voicing disappointment with No. 2 pick, Murray praises Eichel

Report: Jets, Stafford working on a contract extension

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The Winnipeg Jets are attempting to ink pending unrestricted free agent Drew Stafford to a contract extension according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Stafford was acquired by the Jets, from the Buffalo Sabres, in the Evander Kane deal in February.

In 26 games following the trade the 29-year-old scored nine goals and 19 points to go along with a plus-6 rating. He added a goal and an assist in four playoff games.

His four-year, $16 million contract expires on July 1.

Stafford scored 18 goals and 43 points in 76 games during the 2014-15 season split between the Sabres and Jets.

Sabres’ Kane hits the ice for the first time since February

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Buffalo Sabres forward Evander Kane took the next step in his recovery from shoulder surgery by hitting the ice for the first time on Wednesday.

The 23-year-old posted a picture of himself on Instagram last night with a caption, which read, “Good feeling being back on the ice for the first time in 5 months! I’m liking the new practice jersey too!”

Kane, who was dealt from the Jets to the Sabres on Feb. 11, underwent surgery on his shoulder on Feb. 7.

Last month Kane was in Buffalo to have his shoulder looked at and his agent, Craig Oster, told PHT that his client was “ahead of schedule” in his recovery process.

Kane had 10 goals and 22 points in 37 games with the Winnipeg Jets prior to undergoing season-ending surgery.

Related: Should the Sabres buy out Hodgson?

Should the Sabres buy out Hodgson?

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If you want a study in how far a player can fall in a season, you may not find a better example than Buffalo Sabres forward Cody Hodgson.

There was a time when many believed that the Sabres fleeced the Vancouver Canucks in a trade that also involved Zack Kassian. The tune changed quite a bit recently, as he was a healthy scratch at times during a disastrous 2014-15 season.

Now talks are once again cropping up about a possible buyout for Hodgson, as GM Tim Murray told WGR 550’s Paul Hamilton that the situation is “still a decision.” Meanwhile, Murray told Hodgson to improve his skating and conditioning during the offseason.

This is one of the more explicit moments in which the topic came up, yet it’s not the first. The Buffalo News discussed it at the end of the season. The subject popped up in Elliotte Friedman’s popular “30 Thoughts” article back in February.

This is Buffalo’s chance to make such a decision, as the period takes place in June, and teams see big savings if they buy out a player before they turn 26 (it jumps from one-third of the cost to two-thirds once they hit that age).

The Buffalo News mercifully did the math of a Hodgson buyout, to best illustrate the savings:

Buffalo still owes Hodgson $19 million, so a buyout would cost the club $6.27 million. The organization needs to decide if the former 10th overall pick can reach that potential. The buyout period is in June.

In that same article, the 25-year-old said he’d love to be back in Buffalo, and struggled to explain his issues beyond “bad luck, whatever you want to call it.”

While there are obvious reasons why this could be beneficial, here are a few counterpoints to buying him out:

  • He’s still young: It’s not as if Hodgson hit a wall physically. Sometimes young scorers have one of those “Murphy’s Law” years where everything goes wrong. It seems silly to throw away a possible point-producer on a team that was woeful offensively last season.
  • It would be wasted money: The Sabres aren’t cap-strapped, but they’d be throwing away that $6.27 million for nothing. What if he could redeem himself and then at least be more valuable on the trade market?
  • He could click with all the changes: Perhaps Dan Bylsma would suit him well and give him a fresh voice? Maybe Hodgson finds chemistry with Evander Kane next season?

Buffalo needs to make this decision soon, whether they keep the struggling young forward or not. What should they do?

Related

Ted Nolan was exasperated with him, but said he wasn’t a lost cause.