After years of trade rumors, the Winnipeg Jets and forward Evander Kane have finally parted ways.
The Jets shipped Kane, who had season-ending left shoulder surgery, defenseman Zach Bogosian, and college goaltender Jason Kasdorf to the Buffalo Sabres Wednesday in a seven-player trade. The Jets received gigantic defenseman Tyler Myers and forwards Drew Stafford and Joel Armia. Winnipeg also received the rights to Barrie Colts forward Brendan Lemieux, who was Buffalo’s 2014 second-round draft pick.
Both teams proclaimed the trade a win-win situation. Buffalo got a big, talented, speedy, tough forward whose shoulder injury won’t allow him to play until next season.
Kane can’t help the Sabres this season, meaning the team is still on course to have one of the worst records in the National Hockey League, meaning it will have a shot at the first or second pick in 2015 NHL Draft. That means Erie Otters and Team Canada wunderkind forward Connor McDavid or Boston University and Team USA star forward Jack Eichel could be snacking on Buffalo chicken wings or beef on weck this fall.
“The sense I get from Buffalo is that, yes, they’re rebuilding but they’re not going to sit around and wait,” Kane told ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun. “They’re looking to do something now. It’s nice to go somewhere where you feel wanted and you feel they want to put you in a situation to have success.”
For Buffalo, mired in last place in the NHL Eastern Conference, it’s all about 2015-16 and beyond.
For Winnipeg it’s about here and now. The Jets are sitting in fifth place in the Western Conference, sandwiched between the fourth-place Chicago Blackhawks and the sixth-place Vancouver Canucks.
The Jets and their fans desperately want the team to make the playoffs for the first time since it relocated from Atlanta, where it was called the Thrashers.
By unloading Kane, Winnipeg’s management may feel that they’ve made an addition through subtraction. He had developed a reputation as a problem-child – an immature, bad teammate.
In addition, his brashness rubbed some Winnipeg residents the wrong way. His hip-hop hairstyles and photos of him clutching wads of cash in his hands didn’t endear him to some folks in Manitoba’s capital. Kane summed up the negative perception of him in an interview with The Hockey News in 2013.
“I think a good portion of it is because I’m black and I’m not afraid to say that,” Kane told the publication.
In Myers, the Jets get the 2009-10 NHL Rookie of the Year whose play had been up and down ever since. Winnipeg’s counting on a change of scenery and a shift to a winning franchise to improve his play. One thing’s for sure, the 6-foot, 7-inch Myers, paired with 6-foot, 5-inch, 260-pound defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, will give the Jets size that any NBA team would love.
Winnipeg also gets an intriguing and motivated prospect in Lemieux, the son of former Stanley Cup-winning super-pest Claude Lemieux.
Evander Kane has a wounded shoulder. Brendan Lemieux has a chip on his. He was the first player selected in the second-round of last year’s draft, but thought he was first-round material.
Lemieux vowed to make teams that bypassed him pay. Expect him to enter the Jets training camp in September gunning for a roster spot to deliver on his word.
“I’m definitely going to love going in their arenas and making it hard on their guys because they decided to pass me over, so I’m just going to use this as fuel,” he told the reporters at the draft in Philadelphia. “They gave one of the more fiery guys in the draft, I’d like to say, a lot more fire.”