It won’t be long before we get a sense of how the new regimes with the Los Angeles Kings and Buffalo Sabres plan to conduct business. But Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman dropped a potentially revealing hint about how general managers Rob Blake and Jason Botterill might begin tackling their projects in Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada broadcast for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Friedman reported that the Kings are among teams with interest in Evander Kane, and the Sabres might be interested in shipping the winger to Los Angeles after his resurgent offensive season.
Here’s the full quote from Friedman:
Evander Kane, he’s an unrestricted free agent after next season – one year left on his deal. And the word is that the L.A. Kings are one of the teams that’s interested, and I think the Sabres are willing to do it if L.A. and them can strike a deal.
The one’s interesting for a few reasons.
One, Blake’s suggested interest in Kane indicates that his first move won’t be to tear the place down to the studs – at least not right away. Instead, he seems intent on remedying the most glaring weakness from last season for Los Angeles – one of seven teams that failed to score 200 goals.
Kane has the potential to deliver that scoring punch. He posted his best offensive numbers in four seasons last year, producing at a high clip once the broken ribs he suffered crashing into the boards on opening night were healed.
Kane was a top-ten goal scorer from the beginning of December through until the end of the season with 28 goals (25 of which came at even strength) over his final 59 games. For comparison, the NHL’s leading sniper over that same time period, Brad Marchand, had 32.
Just how Kane would fit into the Kings’ salary structure isn’t as clear as his potential impact, though his pending unrestricted free agency is certainly a factor to help facilitate a move. CapFriendly pegs the Kings’ protected cap space at a little over $9 million, flexibility that will increase with the Vegas Golden Knights owed a contract. But it will take some skillful maneuvering to fit Kane’s full $5.25-million freight under the defined salary parameters. Tyler Toffoli is one of five of Los Angeles’ free agents, and is line to earn more than the $3.75 million that Tanner Pearson signed for earlier this offseason.
One last aspect to consider is Kane’s off-ice issues and apparent character flaws. He was embroiled in two separate legal incidents in 2016, one of which earned him a string of charges. He’s since been freed of wrongdoing in both matters, but those incidents, along with his messy divorce from the Winnipeg Jets, attaches a certain morality aspect to his potential acquisition.
Of course, this is something the Kings must seriously contemplate, given the criticism they’ve received for the handling of players who have run into serious off-ice issues.
Whether Kane’s checkered past is part of Botterill’s impetus is unclear, but he should have the opportunity to make a deal given what remains on Kane’s contract. But for Buffalo, which as an organization is feeling pressures to succeed, trading the club’s leading goal scorer from one season ago would raise some questions.
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