The NHL trade deadline is fast-approaching and teams are gearing up to make any last-minute additions to their club before the playoffs or, like the Vancouver Canucks, they’re preparing for the future. Quite a few strong assets are on the market, including the Buffalo Sabres’ Evander Kane, who is becoming a unrestricted free agent on July 1 and hasn’t had any talks about re-signing with Buffalo general manager, Jason Botterill.
Kane is a very talented winger who is just striding into his prime and I believe that he’d be a great fit for the Canucks moving forward. Kane was also born and raised in Vancouver and played for the Vancouver Giants in the WHL before making the leap to the NHL.
The 26-year-old is on quite a few teams’ radars, but if the price is right, we could quite possibly see Kane with an orca on his chest before the end of this season.
Kane and the Sabres
The Sabres are currently eighth in the Atlantic Division with an ugly record of 13-26-9 and could probably use a bit of a change. Kane is second on the team in goals (16) and points (36) and yet, Sabres management isn’t overly keen on keeping him around for the future.
This could possibly be due to their pending cap troubles — they are shelling out handsome paychecks to Kyle Okposo ($6 million), Rasmus Ristolainen ($5.4 million), Jack Eichel ($10 million), Ryan O’Reilly ($7.5 million), Zach Bogosian ($5.142 million), Jason Pominville ($5.6 million) and Marco Scandella ($4 million). In case you didn’t bring your calculator, that’s over half of the team’s cap ($43.6 million) spent on just seven players.
Kane is likely to be the odd-man-out considering he hasn’t had any talks of re-signing yet and is likely to priced at $7 million on a new contract. He’s well aware of the situation and ready for the future.
“I’ve said from Day One I’ve really enjoyed my time here (Buffalo). It’s been a real great experience for me. I’m just going to continue that until I get told something different.” – Kane told Buffalo News.
On top of the financial burden, Kane also tested owners Terry and Kim Pegula’s patience when he was accused of harassment just before the 2016 NHL entry draft in Buffalo — the charges were dropped, but every single NHL team had somebody in Buffalo for the draft and with Kane’s history, it didn’t look good.
Kane has seemingly turned a new leaf, though, since his cash-cellphone and money push-ups days — he’s carried himself nicely on and off the ice this season with the Sabres.
Kane and the Canucks?
Now, how do the Canucks come into this conversation? Well, this isn’t the first time this conversation has surfaced — back in 2016, talks were swirling and then again in the Summer of 2017, the notion of Kane joining the Canucks was toyed with. The Canucks can always use some more firepower and Kane could be the perfect top-line compliment to Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser — somebody young enough to skate with them, yet old enough to be a pillar of stability and also talented enough to contribute.
The idea of Kane coming home to Vancouver isn’t that simple, though — there are quite a few moving pieces. For starters, who do the Canucks give up? Can the Canucks afford it? Would Kane gel with the Canucks, where off-ice standards are exceptionally high?
Who Do the Canucks Move?
Looking at the Sabres’ wishlist, they are in need of a top-pairing, puck-moving defenceman — somebody like Chris Tanev. At $4.45 million a year, Tanev would alleviate some pressure on the Sabres’ cap and also give them the d-man that they strongly desire. Aside from Tanev, Erik Gudbranson is a less-likely candidate, but a candidate all the same — a solid defender with some potential still under his hat. Maybe the Sabres would overlook his injury-proneness.
Can the Canucks Afford Kane?
Yes. It would be tight, but yes. Currently, the Canucks have a projected $1.034 million in cap space, but moving Tanev for Kane’s current $5.25 million makes it very doable. On top of that, Botterill has made it clear that he is willing to retain some of Kane’s salary in a deal.
But, what about in the future? The Canucks have some pending UFAs , including both of the Sedins who are currently at $7 million each and the Canucks will also have to hand out some coin to other less-significant players. If the Sedins do end up coming back, they will be taking a pay-cut and free up anywhere from $5-10 million (my personal estimate). Thomas Vanek, is also likely to move on, freeing up another $2 million.
Long story short, it is doable.
Would Kane Gel with the Canucks?
Most people are probably inclined to disagree with me here, but I think that he would and I also think that he’d play the best hockey of his career in his hometown.
I think Kane has had a serious lack of mentors in his career — especially during his time with the Winnipeg Jets. He was young, he was dumb and his teammates were having none of it. Showing up to the rink in a tracksuit is not the way to earn your teammate’s respect, but somebody like Dustin Byfuglien really could have taught him a lot. Instead, he gave the youngster a very rough ride.
Players like Daniel and Henrik Sedin are the epitome of role-models and carry themselves in a manner, on and off the ice, that is recognized and respected by the entirety of the NHL. Their maturity could really rub off on Kane.
On top of that, being a part of the Canucks right now is a very exciting thing — they are moving towards something great and Kane could be a very integral part of that. He could feed off that energy and return to his 30-goal level of production and maybe even reach that all-elusive 40-goal milestone — playing with Boeser wouldn’t hurt the cause either.
If you ask me, this a good move for both franchises and Kane himself — everybody wins.
Matt is a longtime fan, player and student of the game of hockey. Broadcast and Online Journalism student at the British Columbia Institute of Technology.