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The Buffalo Sabres’ high price for Evander Kane may be asking too much

The Sabres’ high-risk, high-reward ask for Kane is likely too lofty for the NHL market.

Winnipeg Jets v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

The Buffalo Sabres may want to unload assets at the NHL trade deadline, but considering the reported ask for star Evander Kane, they may not have much success unless they lower their price.

On Tuesday, hockey insider Darren Dreger spoke to Montreal’s TSN Radio 690 on the state of the market for big names, and the rumored price for Kane is a “first-round pick, a prospect, a roster player, and a conditional pick.”

In total, four assets of a pretty high caliber would be needed to dangle in front of the Sabres’ faces to get them to bite on any potential deal. Here’s how Dreger laid out the ask, in terms of what it could mean for the Toronto Maple Leafs:

“If Buffalo gets a [first round pick], 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. If they get all that, or there’s a belief they get all that, imagine what the Leafs might get for JVR, Bozak, Komarov or all three...” he said. “...but the ‘own rental’ philosophy is probably more likely given the Toronto Maple Leafs’ position in the standings.”

The Sabres have been shopping Kane, among other assets, for at least a month now after an early-December report mentioned Buffalo was “willing to listen” on trades for anyone but Jack Eichel.

In the midst of a miserable season for the Sabres, who are the NHL’s second-worst team with a 11-24-9 record, Kane has been one of the only standouts. The 26-year-old winger is second on the team with 36 points in 44 games, and only recently just seceded the team lead in that mark to Eichel. Kane’s season hasn’t blown away the NHL leaderboards, but he’s on pace for a career-best, 67-point season.

Despite his success, the Sabres may just be asking too much for Kane. Four pieces, especially of that nature in a draft pick, a prospect, and two roster players, is incredibly high for a player who has hit 30 goals just once in his career. Kane surely brings a lot to the table for a contender as a gritty scorer, but Sabres general manager Jason Botterill is likely setting the bar too high here.

And that could come at a price. Our Sabres blog Die By The Blade brought up a major factor as Buffalo edges closer to the trade deadline, that the team could price everyone else out of a deal with the ask so high:

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.

Botterill is playing a high-risk, high-reward game. Kane is most certainly not worth the four assets described, but if the market is thin with the deadline in sight a contender may just bite on the high price anyway.

However, the Sabres are staring down Kane’s contract status at the end of the season. The winger’s six-year, $31.5 million deal expires at the end of the season, meaning Kane could reasonably walk anywhere else in free agency for nothing should the Sabres fail to re-sign him. Another contract likely wouldn’t hurt the Sabres, as Kane’s $5.25 million cap hit isn’t terrible, but there’s certainly value in attempting to flip him for something considering this team isn’t anywhere close to contention.

There are even questions as to whether Kane even wants to re-sign in Buffalo should trade talks fall through, as last week the forward and defenseman Justin Falk were involved in a practice altercation. Falk reportedly called Kane “selfish” during a midday scrum that got physical before coaches pulled them away.

Plus, if the market is flooded with potential pickups for contenders, the Sabres also run the risk of being too high-priced when players on cheaper deals are out on the trade block.

We’ve seen NHL GMs put high price tags on major assets before the trade deadline then either drop the cost or settle for something less than what was asked. For Kane, a reasonable price for the Sabres is likely a first and two prospects. The Sabres have no real use for a roster player considering their window is down the line, not in the present. Adding depth to their prospect pool while stockpiling another first round pick is likely the better, and cheaper, course of action.

Even still, general managers in this league often surprise with the lengths they will go to acquire certain players. We’ll find out soon enough if this gamble by the Sabres pays off, or if Kane remains in Buffalo until the end of the season.