Let’s play a game.
What if I told you that the top-6 scoring left winger the Ducks and their fans have been lusting after for years was on the trade market?
What if that player was currently on pace for 37 goals and 74 points on a very bad team?
What if I told you that his current production is not the result of an unsustainable hot streak given his current shooting percentage (10.7% vs. career 9.1%) and the fact that each of his 20+ goal seasons have come with a percentage around that 10% in his career?
What if I told you he was currently rocking a 2.61 P/60, a 50.73 CF% including a 4.93 RelCF%, and may even be slightly underperforming with a GF% of 45.71 compared to an xGF% of 51.49.
Unless you live in opposite land and started reading the story before spoiling the big reveal here in the title above, you’ll realize I’m talking about Buffalo Sabres left winger Evander Kane. Before you light your torches and corner me, give me a chance to explain why it may be in Anaheim’s best interest to go after the 26-year old forward.
The Adam Henrique trade has already paid dividends. And with a fully healthy roster close to being realized, the Ducks have the potential to ice once of the better forward lineups in the NHL. But even with that healthy lineup, the ability to add a near-elite scoring top-6 forward on the left side for what will likely be a relatively inexpensive package is something Bob Murray would be remiss to not at least look into.
Let’s address the elephant in the room; the one aspect of Kane that so many fans think instantly kills this deal: his off-ice issues.
Kane definitely has some off-ice reputation issues. In June of 2016, Kane was arrested for an alleged incident at a Buffalo bar. All charges were eventually dropped and the case sealed in May of this year. There was also the infamous “tracksuit shower” incident in Winnipeg when captain Dustin Byfuglien apparently threw his track suit into the shower that led to Kane being scratched from the team’s next game, among others.
Are these issues concerning and worth looking at? Absolutely. However, there have been no reports of Kane having any issues whatsoever since that June bar incident a year and a half ago. This may not exactly earn him the benefit of the doubt, but the fact that things have been quiet on that front for awhile now should not have a significant impact on his value to the team.
The only thing we know now is that Kane has been one of the extremely few bright spots on a frustrated Sabres team. When you have 60-70 point potential and play a similar game to the Ducks (hard hitting, grinding) that could fit well into Carlyle’s system, you make an offer.
What would it take to get a player like Kane? He is currently in the last year of his current deal with a cap hit of $5.25 million. This brings down his value somewhat being a rental.
The Ducks currently have about $2 million in cap space. However, moving Eaves to LTIR (he’s not on it already; I know, I was surprised too) and dealing a player due for a raise soon from the Ducks defense reserves could make it work. Welinski or Megna come to mind here. Pettersson or Larsson are certainly options, but they have more control and higher upside, so Buffalo would likely have to add a pick to get Murray comfortable enough to pull the trigger.
Dealing Nick Ritchie could also be an option here. Ritchie is an RFA this offseason. While he will certainly not be in line for a huge raise, he will likely get a modest pay bump. Remember, he’s still only 21 years old with several years of control remaining. Regardless of what you think of his play, those facts alone drive up his value.
With Ritchie, the Ducks could eliminate the need to include a pick in the deal, or even use it as leverage to get a higher pick. However, Ritchie seems to have earned a spot on this roster as an everyday top-9 player in the eyes of the coaching staff. Dealing him is a complicated scenario given what Buffalo is looking for in a return and would only happen if he was in a package including a defeseman.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman lined out in his “31 Thoughts” column what would likely be the asking price for Kane in any deal, and it seems the Sabres are aiming high.
Keep in mind, though, that the forwards aside from Kane on the market could have a significant hand in dictating his value.
Evander Kane, while inconsistent over his career, has always put up relatively good numbers while showing spans of brilliance that many believe he can put together to be a consistent genuine scoring threat. His rental price combined with the fact that the Sabres are looking for a young defenseman they could easily find amongst Anaheim’s embarrassment of riches in that department makes too much sense for both teams.
The Ducks likely do not have much time left with the current core in the waning years of their primes. A perfect storm is brewing between Anaheim and Buffalo, and now may be the perfect time to take advantage.