Buffalo Sabres Pull off Incredible 'Tank Trade' to Land Evander Kane from JetsFebruary 11, 2015
Tim Murray confidently strides to a microphone. He's on a stage alone. Assembled in front of him is every member of the Buffalo Sabres organization, hushed in anticipation. Behind him, a curtain is drawn.
Before he speaks, he signals to someone off stage.
The curtain opens. The crowd gasps.
"Behind me is the Murray Tank 2015, the greatest tank ever assembled in the history of the NHL. This tank is a wrecker of worlds, an unstoppable machine capable of guaranteeing loss after loss until the season is vaporized. With our latest changes Wednesday, this tank will role into Erie, Pennsylvania, and drive Connor McDavid back to Buffalo in June!"
Terry Pegula rises and applauds. Tears of joy drip down his face. The crowd roars.
Maybe—maybe—that's not how this blockbuster, historic tank trade between the Winnipeg Jets and Buffalo Sabres happened, but it would be understandable if it did. Murray is a genius.
The principles: Buffalo sent NHL players Tyler Myers and Drew Stafford along with prospects Joel Armia and Brendan Lemieux and a conditional first-round pick (the lowest of the three the Sabres possess, according to TSN's Darren Dreger) for Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian and prospect Jason Kasdorf.
It's true what they say—every tank needs an Armia behind it.
Jokes and puns aside, this is magnificent for the Sabres, who all but guaranteed themselves a 30th-place finish, which guarantees them either McDavid or Jack Eichel with the first or second pick in the 2015 draft. If the Sabres finish 30th and fail to win the draft lottery, they can't pick any lower than second.
By dealing two NHL players for one NHL player that can take the ice over the rest of the season, the Sabres are worse now. With Kane out for four to six months after shoulder surgery, the Sabres won't receive the services of a top-six left wing until next season, when he will perhaps find himself with McDavid or Eichel as his center.
The Sabres have a four-point "lead" on the Edmonton Oilers for last place in the NHL, with each team having 27 games left. At 38.1 percent, according to stats.hockeyanalysis.com, the Sabres are the worst Fenwick team in the analytics era and about 10 points worse this season than the Oilers, their only real competition for dead last. With this virtual two-for-one deal, the Sabres have found a way to weaken themselves now and strengthen themselves later.
Bogosian ($5.14 million through 2020) and Myers ($5.5 million through 2019) are a virtual wash now, although a fresh start for Myers could make him the more productive player in the coming years. Some people are writing off the 6'8" Myers, but five years from now, we may look back on this deal and wonder how the Sabres ever parted with him.
It's unfortunate for Bogosian that he becomes collateral damage in the fallout between the Jets and Kane, as the 24-year-old was likely two months away from his first postseason game. For now, he'll have to find happiness in the potential for the Sabres in the next few seasons.
Here's what the Sabres forwards could look like in 2015-16:
|Potential Buffalo Sabres forwards in 2015-16|
|Left wing||Center||Right wing|
|Matt Moulson||Zemgus Girgensons||Tyler Ennis|
|Evander Kane||Connor McDavid||Brian Gionta|
|Mikhail Grigorenko||Sam Reinhart||Marcus Foligno|
|Nicolas Deslauriers||Cody McCormick||Brian Flynn|
It's not bad. There are also assumptions in there about Cody Hodgson not being around next season and the development and readiness of a few prospects, but that's a pretty nice top nine. It's probably not a playoff team in 2016, but there's potential for long-term success beyond that.
The question becomes whether Kane adapts to his new environment and gets along with teammates better than he did in Winnipeg. "Attitude" and whatnot can be overblown at times, but that's the not the case here, as issues were bubbling under the surface in Winnipeg for years. If everyone gets along harmoniously in Buffalo, the Sabres have themselves a potential 30-goal scorer at a reasonable cap hit ($5.25 million) through 2018.
One note about McDavid and the expectations that will be heaped upon him should he become a Sabre: In Sidney Crosby's rookie season, he had 39 goals and 102 points and finished sixth in the league in scoring; the Penguins went from 30th (58 points) in 2003-04 to 29th (58 points) in 2005-06 after Crosby's arrival.
The Penguins took off in Crosby's second season and haven't looked back.
The Sabres are on the precipice of something similar.
By making this deal with the Jets, Murray may have sped up that timetable a little bit.
The wins may not be coming next season even with Kane and maybe McDavid on the roster, but perennial success isn't that far away, either.
All statistics via NHL.com and Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com. Cap information via Spotrac.
Dave Lozo covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @DaveLozo.