The Curious Case of Evander Kane

Evander Kane’s name has been fairly prominent in trade rumors over the past few weeks, and rightly so. His value has never been higher. The 25 year old Sabres’ winger is in the midst of his 8th NHL season already and has been on a tear since early December.

Buffalo is currently ranked 26th in even strength goals for per 60 minutes of play, so for Evander Kane to lead the league in even strength goals over a significant portion of the season is impressive to say the least. Kane currently sits at 5th in the league at 20 even strength goals on the season, behind the likes of Grabner, Matthews, Laine, and Crosby. 

Why Would the Sabres Trade Kane?

Many arguments in favor of trading Evander Kane argue that the Sabres should capitalize on his scoring tear. People on this side of the fence want to deal Kane to a contender for young players with high upside. This perspective seems to value Kane’s short term value over his long term potential, which is to ignore the fact that Kane is only 25 years old. Yes, cup contenders may consider Kane as the “final piece,” and may be willing to leverage long term assets for Kane. But would the return be sufficient enough for the Sabres?

The Sabres need help on the blue line, so they would likely want a prospect D man with top pairing potential. This would address their defensive concerns, but would a team that struggles to score really want to get rid of someone like Kane? The answer really depends on the value of the return.

Potential Suitors
Why Mikhail Sergachev Is Montreal’s Best Prospect
Sergachev was the Habs 2016 first round draft choice and is considered to be NHL ready. Credit:Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Teams that could use Evander Kane are the Montreal Canadiens and the Los Angeles Kings. The Canadiens have not been good in the second half of the season and are searching for a top line forward. If the Habs were to trade for Kane, they would likely have to give up someone like Mikhail Sergachev. They could also send Noah Juulsen in a deal, but would have to package him with a second or third round pick because he is not NHL ready yet. GM Marc Bergevin has already stated that his prospects are not available, though. Outside of those two prospects, I don’t see any realistic returns from the Habs in a Kane deal.

The Kings desperately need scoring help. They are 6th in goals against per 60 minutes, but sit just above the Sabres at 25th in goals for per 60. Jeff Carter is really the only consistent scoring threat, as regulars like Kopitar have not been very productive this year. The Kings still are just 4 points behind the surging Flames for the final wild card spot in the west right now, and would like to add a scoring forward to get them into the playoffs.

Anze Kopitar
Anze Kopitar has only registered 6 goals so far on the year, highlighting the Kings’ offensive struggles. Credit:Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

To land Kane, the Kings would need to give up their top defensive prospect, Kale Clague, and possibly a 2nd or 3rd round pick. Clauge, like Juulsen, is still two or three years away from playing in the NHL. The Kings could use Alec Martinez as a piece in this deal, but the Sabres will likely be looking for someone younger, since they are still in a rebuild. Even if the Sabres were interested in Martinez, he would have to be packaged with picks.

This is all assuming that the Kings believe they can compete for the Stanley Cup this year. With Jonathan Quick almost ready to return, the Kings might believe they are just a winger away from being competitive. Kane certainly fits the bill, and could really help the Kings jump start their offense.

The problem is, I just don’t see the Sabres wanting to move Kane. He is young enough to continue growing with the team through this rebuild. Additionally, how many 25 year old proven scorers are really out there? Kane has had his share of controversies in his career, but maybe he is intereacting better in the locker room with the Sabres. At 25, I think Kane is yet to reach his peak, and I think the Sabres are ready to wait and see what he can really achieve.

 

Featured Image is Credit of Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY Sports

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