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Setting Proper Expectations

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The NHL trade deadline is an exciting time of the year, but fans may want to temper expectations for the Sabres

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at Buffalo Sabres Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

We’re six days from the NHL trade deadline. Some teams are making moves prior to the deadline and others are starting to get into the deep details on trade discussions. The Buffalo Sabres have a few players that could be on the move by 3 pm EST. on February 26.

With the season being a disappointment, Sabres fans are looking at the deadline to get some hope and promise infused into their veins. I don’t want to be “that guy” but I’m not sure some fans are going to get what they’re hoping for.

The Big Fish

A lot of the eggs are in the Evander Kane basket. He’s the big chip the Sabres hold and one of the top players that will be available. The report a month or so ago was that General Manager Jason Botterill was looking for four pieces as the price for acquiring Kane.

A first-round pick, prospect, a conditional pick and roster player. Sitting here less than a week from the deadline. It seems like that ship has sailed and is never coming back. Crazy things have happened come crunch time, but it just doesn’t seem like a realistic scenario.

The left-wing market is flooded with other players like Max Pacioretty, Rick Nash, Michael Grabner, Alex Galchenyuk, Patrick Maroon and Mike Hoffman.

The other thing working against the Sabres 26-year-old winger is his past. I know he’s stayed out of trouble the last two years, but a reputation is hard to discard once it’s been created. Some teams don’t like the idea of adding Kane to their roster or are still hesitant to pull the trigger.

Botterill is no longer working from a position of power. He arguably no longer holds the top piece in the market. Of course, TSN isn’t the be all end all of the trade market situation, but they’ve dropped Kane from the top player available to fifth. That must be coming from some sort of insight insiders are hearing.

Buyers who are interested in the scoring winger know the Sabres must move Kane or risk losing him for nothing. A position no general manager wants to find themselves in.

A best-case return on Kane for the Sabres may come in the form of a second-round pick with a condition to become a first-round pick and prospect. Not the four-piece asking price we heard about in December.

The Others

Outside of Kane, the Sabres have a group of players that could move, but nothing that is going to bring back great value. Josh Gorges and Benoit Pouliot will bring back nothing better than a fourth or fifth round pick if they’re moved.

Zemgus Girgensons, Justin Falk and Johan Larsson probably fall into that same category if they’re moved by the deadline.

The market on Robin Lehner appears to be down to one team. With the Philadelphia Flyers acquiring Petr Mrazek from the Detroit Red Wings last night. Only the New York Islanders remain as a legitimate trade partner in the goaltending market.

An argument could be made for the Edmonton Oilers, but they could explore that need in the offseason.

At this point, you’d have to think the odds are higher on Lehner being with the Sabres past February 26. Especially when you throw the uncertainty of the hip injury into the conversation.

Hockey Trade

Lastly, those hoping for a hockey trade, I’m going to rain on your parade here as well. I went back and looked at the last two trade deadlines. The most recent “hockey trade” I could find is when the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks swapped prospects Hunter Shinkaruk and Markus Granlund back in 2016.

You could make an argument the Dion Phanuef and Marian Gaborik trade was a hockey trade, but I see that as more of a salary dump.

That Zach Kassian for Cody Hodgson type trade is a rarity at the trade deadline. Those deals are usually made at the NHL Draft or early July.

I’ll say it again. Anything can happen on deadline day. It’s possible that a trade nobody saw coming could unfold but seems unlikely.

I’m not trying to suck the air out of your excitement balloon for the deadline. It is an exciting time of the year and gives fans something to talk about. However, if you set proper expectations for the next six days, you’ll find yourself in a better mood come 3:01 on Monday.