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The Sabres Risk of Setting the Price Too High on Evander Kane

Is Jason Botterill attempting to set the market for the upcoming deadline or setting his sights too high?

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL trade deadline is just over a month away (February, 26th). By all accounts, the Buffalo Sabres hold the top prize in forward Evander Kane. The 26-year-old is set to become an unrestricted free-agent this summer and could be a huge rental piece offensively for a team planning on a long playoff run.

In an interview on Montreal’s TSN 690, Darren Dreger dropped some information on how the price is higher than originally reported on Kane.

In discussing the market for Toronto Maple Leafs pending UFA James Van Riemsdyk Dreger said, “Well, that’s the tough decision that Lamoriello and company are going to have to make because if Buffalo gets a first, a prospect, a roster player, and a conditional pick – which I was corrected on, frankly, after I wrote that on Friday. They want a roster player in addition to the other three assets for Evander Kane, a pending unrestricted free agent.”

A first-round pick, prospect, roster player, and conditional pick sounds very nice from a Sabres perspective. For the rest of the league or the teams interested in Kane, that price may sound ridiculous for a rental player.

Let’s remember that Kane does have a past and even though he’s been out of the news the last two years that past doesn’t go away. Don’t forget we had one of his teammates calling him “selfish” just last week in a practice scuffle. Also, he got off to a great start this season, but has cooled off scoring only three times in the last 15 games. Lastly, he’s a free agent who will likely want to test the open market come July 1st.

When you add all that up, it doesn’t paint a clear picture how the Sabres are planning to walk away with the biggest deadline haul we’ve seen in a few years.

Recent History

Kevin Shattenkirk was the main prize at last year’s deadline. The St. Louis Blues picked up a 2017 first round pick, conditional 2019 second round pick, forward Zach Sanford and forward Brad Malone from the Washington Capitals. If you remember this deal had a book of contingencies on that conditional pick. This may be the closest to what the Sabres are hoping for. Sanford is a 2013 second round pick that has been out this season with an injury while Brad Malone is an AHL player.

Patrick Eaves was another coveted player last year and had 16 goals and 37 points with the Dallas Stars, which are the numbers Kane is basically sitting on right now (16 goals and 36 points). Eaves got the Stars a conditional 2017 second-round-pick that turned into a first-round pick with the Anaheim Ducks advancing to the Western Conference Finals.

Prior to this report a lot of reports were indicating the Sabres were hoping for a return similar to what the Winnipeg Jets received at the 2016 deadline for Andrew Ladd. That trade saw Ladd go to the Chicago Blackhawks with defenseman Jay Harrison and forward Matt Fraser. In return, the Jets received forward Marko Dano, a 2016 first round pick and a 2018 conditional third-round pick.

Pricing Yourself Out of the Market?

The Ladd return made a lot of sense for the Sabres. A first-round pick appears to be the market set value for a player of Kane’s potential, a B-level prospect and a conditional pick based on how far the team who acquires Kane advances or if they get him to re-sign.

The addition of a roster player into that mix seems a bit much. You could come with the argument of ask for the sky and work your way down. That’s a plausible way to approach it.

That also comes with a risk. Remember when Garth Snow and the New York Islanders asked for the sky for Thomas Vanek back in 2014? They priced themselves out of the market and other buyers called their bluff. They were forced to make a last-second trade with the Montreal Canadiens for a conditional second-round pick and Sebastian Collberg who has played zero NHL games.

Not the Only Option

The other thing not working in the Sabres favor is that there are other options out there for teams to explore if they don’t want to pay the high price. Van Riemsdyk could be had for the right price, as well as his teammate Tyler Bozak. Mike Hoffman from the Ottawa Senators is another forward rumored to be available who can provide scoring to a club. Hoffman is also signed through the 2019-20 season.

If Montreal decides to dump players Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk are two names to watch. Then if the Vegas Golden Knights decide to get what they can for James Neal, that’s another player in the pool.

This year is a little richer in talent that could be available than what we’ve seen in the past few deadlines. We’ll see how things shake out as we get closer to the big day.