During Tuesday’s edition of TSN’s Insider Trading, Pierre LeBrun mentioned that the Buffalo Sabres would be willing to get creative in moving Evander Kane. Specifically, LeBrun reports that the Sabres are OK with retaining a portion of Kane’s $5.25 million salary to make something happen and maximize their takeaway.
In that same segment, LeBrun notes that there might be a gestation period here, suggesting that it might take six or seven weeks for something to happen. Even so, while expanding upon that issue for The Athletic, LeBrun described a Kane trade as “inevitable.”
So, here’s an opinion: both the Sabres and a potential contender should make this happen. Like, now.
Speeding up the process
If the Sabres are willing to absorb part of Kane’s salary to make something work, perhaps they’d also be willing to take on a pricey expiring deal to expedite the process?
Just looking around the league, it’s conceivable that a team might give up a pretty penny to land Kane. Imagine how much of a difference the power forward could make for, say, the injury-addled Ducks; imagine the kind of return Buffalo might net if they absorbed Kevin Bieksa‘s $4M cap hit in such a move? (Assuming Anaheim can part ways with the other master of the “Superman Punch.”)
Honestly, Sabres management might even be wise to take on a slighter longer problem contract. What if Buffalo absorbed all of Brooks Orpik‘s $5.5M (expiring after 2018-19) if it meant a futures-heavy package deal?
The possibilities are fascinating for Buffalo, at least if they don’t think that Kane is a part of their longer-term plans.
The thing is, I’d argue that contenders should jump on this opportunity, rather than waiting too long. Allow me to share my rationale in handy bullet-point form:
- Kane might need a little time to adjust.
If I were to grade Kane’s time in Buffalo, I’d probably lean toward an “Incomplete.”
From personal issues to injuries and other concerns, it’s often felt like Kane, 26, never was going to take off with the Sabres. Honestly, this is the first season where he’s made the sort of top-line impact (at worst, top-six impact) many envisioned when the one-time 30-goal scorer was fast-track-pantsed out of Winnipeg.
The sooner you land Kane, the sooner you get him into your lineup, and if there were work visa concerns, you’d already be losing a game or two once the transaction is made.
- Get ahead of the trade market
Look, this trade being leaked probably ups some pressure on GMs of struggling contenders to get something done.
Still, maybe the early bird will get the worm here? Perhaps being proactive would lower the price, while waiting more than a month might encourage a greater bidding war?
- More value, more time to determine rental vs. keeper
Kane doesn’t turn 27 until August. Even if he’s seeking a riskier, long-term deal, his next contract would include a few peak years and then some near-peak time.
The question, then, is “How good is Kane, really?”
You can break down tape all you want, but with injuries limiting some of the sample size over the years and zero career playoff games to judge Kane by, there’s at least a bit of mystery as to how much he’s truly worth.
With that in mind, and the potential for the Sabres to get a greater conditional return in a hypothetical trade if Kane re-signs, why not buy a few extra weeks or even months to gauge Kane’s value? The winger with the boxer-inspired name might be worth keeping around, but a team could really benefit from seeing where he fits in, both on the ice and in the locker room.
Now, there are a lot of factors that go into a situation like this.
We don’t know how many teams are calling up the Sabres about Kane. If a deal would be anywhere near as complicated as the three-team Matt Duchene/Kyle Turris swap was, then it might take some haggling.
That said, a contender should look at the boost the Predators got from Turris, feel jealous, and then try to land a difference-maker like Kane sooner rather than later. LeBrun’s reports certainly indicate that the Sabres are willing to get creative to make a big move happen.
So why wait?
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.