BUFFALO – Throughout a miserable season, winger Evander Kane was often the Sabres’ best asset, scoring goals on a hapless team starved for offense. To general manager Jason Botterill, the nine-year veteran is a “premium” player.
So why did Botterill trade Kane to the San Jose Sharks shortly before today’s 3 p.m. deadline for two conditional draft picks – one could become a first-rounder, although that seems unlikely – and a marginal prospect?
“As a result of where we are in the standings, we have to make changes to our organization,” Botterill said this afternoon inside KeyBank Center shortly after completing his only trade. “The group that we have right now is not working.”
The Sabres never seemed interested in re-signing Kane, who was dogged by off-ice problems early in his Buffalo tenure.
“I’m not putting all the blame on Evander Kane,” Botterill said. “There’s a lot of blame to go around – coaching staff, management, players. We have to be better in certain situations. The bottom line is the mix we had right now isn’t working, so we had to make adjustments.”
Fair or not, Kane has been perceived as a bad influence off the ice. Botterill said that wasn’t a problem. He said ownership had “zero” input on trading Kane.
“I’ve heard some of the rumors and stuff out there before (about Kane),” Botterill said. “Evander, he handled himself very well in interacting with us.”
Other factors, of course, contributed to dealing him. For a 30th-place team, the Sabres don’t have much salary cap space. As an unrestricted free agent following the season, Kane, 26, will likely command a long-term contract worth perhaps $6 million a year.
Despite Kane’s fourth 20-goal campaign, there wasn’t much interest in him around the NHL.
“The bottom line is we had one legitimate offer for Evander,” Botterill said.
So Botterill took it. The market for rental players was weak, he said, although the Winnipeg Jets packaged a first-rounder to the St. Louis Blues in their deal for center Paul Stastny.
Kane has eight more goals than Stastny, the same amount of points (40) and is six years younger.
The Sabres received a second-round pick in 2019 that becomes a first if Kane re-signs with the Sharks or they win the Stanley Cup and a conditional fourth-rounder in 2019 that becomes a third in 2020 if San Jose wants to push it back, Botterill said.
The Sharks also sent prospect Danny O’Regan, Jack Eichel’s college linemate at Boston University, to the Sabres. O’Regan, the AHL’s top rookie last season, will report to the Rochester Americans, Botterill said.
“We are very impressed with his skill level, certainly his hockey sense,” Botterill said. “You look at last year, the success he had in the American Hockey League, we think he’s ready to make the jump here.”
While Botterill said he had “lots of talks” with other teams about some of the Sabres’ upcoming UFAs, he had no offers.
Check back later for much more!