Latest on the Sabres and Devils – March 13, 2017
Latest on Evander Kane, the Buffalo Sabres defense and suggested free-agent targets for the New Jersey Devils in your NHL rumor mill.
THE BUFFALO NEWS: John Vogl believes the Buffalo Sabres are wasting left wing Evander Kane. Despite Kane’s strong scoring pace this season (on pace for 31 goals), the Sabres are near the Eastern Conference basement and will miss the playoffs this season. Kane will be eligible in July 2018 for unrestricted free agency. If it becomes clear this summer that Kane decides to test the market next summer, Vogl believes Sabres general manager Tim Murray must trade the winger, rather than lose him for nothing to free agency next year.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane’s strong play this season could entice Murray to open contract talks this summer, but the Sabres GM will need assurances that the winger has put his off-ice issues to rest and is willing to stay in Buffalo. Kane’s asking price will also be a factor. If there’s an opportunity to land a quality defenseman for Kane, Murray could seriously consider it.
Vogl also notes the limited depth in quality defensemen in this summer’s free-agent market. The top point producers are Washington’s Kevin Shattenkirk, Montreal’s Andrei Markov and the Sabres’ own Cody Franson, the top blueliners by minutes players are Pittsburgh’s Ron Hainsey, the Sabres’ Dmitry Kulikov and Edmonton’s Kris Russell. while the youngest are Kulikov, Philadelphia’s Michael Del Zotto and Calgary’s Michael Stone. Vogl feels Washington’s Karl Alzner is worthy of an offer but beyond Shattenkirk the pickings are slim.
As for restricted free agents, “The top point-producers are Pittsburgh’s Justin Schultz, St. Louis’ Colton Parayko, Philadelphia’s Shayne Gostisbehere and Washington’s Dmitry Orlov. The top RFAs by ice time are Toronto’s Nikita Zaitsev and Dallas’ Esa Lindell.” To land a quality defenseman, Vogl believes it’ll cost GM Murray a forward or two via trade this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the limited number of suitable free-agent options, I think Murray will be busier in the trade market to address his blueline needs. As Vogl notes, offer sheets are rare in the NHL. I doubt Shero goes the offer sheet route to pursue a rival club’s restricted free agent defenseman. Last summer, there was speculation Murray had interest in Anaheim Ducks rearguard Cam Fowler. Perhaps he’ll revisit those discussions in June.
NJ.COM: In a recent mailbag segment, Chris Ryan believes the New Jersey Devils could target Washington Capitals defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk via free agency this summer. Whlle Shattenkirk’s been linked to the New York Rangers, Ryan notes the blueliner played for the Devils young organization growing up. The Devils also have the salary-cap space to make a competitive bid.
With the Devils carrying 10 picks in the 2017 draft, Ryan expects GM Ray Shero to be aggressive on draft day, noting he had peddled picks before to bring in Kyle Palmieri and Beau Bennett. If there’s an opportunity via free agency to quickly improve the Devils, Ryan expects Shero will do it but he won’t spend just for the sake of doing so.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Devils need scoring punch and blueline depth. Shero’s been patient with his club but he must address those issues this summer via trade and/or free agency. Landing Shattenkirk won’t be easy. Despite the Devils’ cap space, he could prefer signing with a playoff club. The Anaheim Ducks, Carolina Hurricanes, Minnesota Wild, Philadelphia Flyers and Vancouver Canucks have depth in young blueliners that the Devils can target in the trade market, dangling those draft picks as bait.
Given winger Mike Cammalleri’s struggles this season, Ryan doesn’t rule out the possibility he’ll be left exposed in the June expansion draft. Ultimately, he expects Cammalleri will be back next season with the Devils.