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.

Getting acquainted: Bylsma and Kane met for three hours

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While Evander Kane was in Buffalo last week having his shoulder evaluated he also had the opportunity to meet new Sabres’ head coach Dan Bylsma.

The two reportedly met for three hours to get to know one another.

Bylsma also spoke with former Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel about the 23-year-old forward.

As for what Noel told Bylsma?

“There is probably not a guy who is more competitive than Evander Kane,” Bylsma told Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Bylsma has also considered the idea pairing Kane alongside Jack Eichel the projected No. 2 selection at next month’s NHL Draft.

“If that can work, imagine it coming at you,” Bylsma said of the pair’s speed.

Bylsma had an up close look at Eichel when the two were with Team USA at the World Hockey Championship in the Czech Republic.

“Right away in the tournament — versus Finland, versus Russia — he showed he could play against men, 16-18 minutes,” said Bylsma. “There were times he skated right by them…special plays from a special player.

“From what we know, (Eichel’s) power numbers are extremely good. His vertical, again from what we know, would be the second-best among the Sabres…so there’s a powerful base. He still needs to work on strength and to get bigger, but what he generates is an enormous amount of power. The way he can accelerate, you don’t see someone do that every day.”

Sabres’ Kane (shoulder) ‘ahead of schedule’ with recovery

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The hiring of head coach Dan Bylsma wasn’t the only good news for Buffalo Sabres fans this week.

Evander Kane was in Buffalo on Thursday to have his surgically repaired left shoulder re-evaluated. According to Kane’s agent Craig Oster, the forward is ahead of schedule on the initial 4-6 month recovery timeframe.

“Evander had a follow (up) appointment in Buffalo and all are pleased with his progress,” Oster told PHT via email. “He is ahead of schedule on his recovery and the expectation is he will be completely healthy for the start of the Sabres’ season.”

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

The 23-year-old had 10 goals and 22 points in 37 games for Winnipeg this season prior to the surgery.

Ennis sees ‘better days’ ahead for Buffalo

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These last two seasons couldn’t have gone much worse for Buffalo from a statistical perspective. The hope is that the Sabres will take a significant step forward in their rebuilding efforts in 2015-16.

“It’s definitely the start for sure of better days,” Tyler Ennis said, per the Associated Press. “There should be optimism.”

While some fans might have been comfortable with writing this season off in the hopes of securing one of Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel in the draft, finishing in last place was still frustrating for players like Ennis.

“We understand what happened this year, trying to get our future put in place,” Josh Gorges said. “But now, it’s time to take a step forward.”

How big of a step remains to be seen. The Sabres are expected to take McDavid or Eichel depending on whether or not they win the draft lottery or have to settle for the second overall pick. Evander Kane will also finally make his Buffalo debut next season after being acquired in February. He’s been recovering from a shoulder injury.

Those two additions alone might be a significant boost, but given the huge gap between Buffalo and much of the league, this team might continue to struggle next season. The Sabres have the entire summer to improve further on the trade and free agent markets, but regardless they do, the prospects in their system combined with the addition of McDavid or Eichel provides cause for the optimism people like Ennis feel.