What Might Have Been: A Buffalo Story
Picture it: a bustling floor at the then-named First Niagara Center as the NHL’s general managers gather to take part in the 2016 entry draft. Hands are being shaken. Laughs are being shared. Secret meetings are taking place in a bastardized version of Morse code, probably.
There is no question that the hosting Buffalo Sabres have the steeliest of GMs in Tim Murray. His cold, dead stare could rival Medusa for its ability to turn the most courageous of press members to stone. He’s got an agenda, and it’s best for everyone that his goals are met. No one wants to upset the Murray. NO ONE.
In walks Minnesota’s Chuck Fletcher. He’s fresh off the coaching hire of the offseason, nabbing a recently axed Bruce Boudreau, and like a certain fiery fiddle playing demon, he’s looking to make a deal. Running his finger down Buffalo’s depth chart, he finds the name of a dynamic and skilled individual…who has a bit of a checkered past.
Shrugging his shoulders, he picks up the phone and dials Murray. “Tim,” he says; “I need a winger.”
Murray, ever the droll conversationalist, replies, “Wings are great across the street. Stop by 716. Drop my name. They’ll give you two for one.” GMTM reaches for the END button, when he hears a name that freezes his extended finger.
A light flashes in Tim’s eyes. This is it. Make no mistake where you are. This is his opportunity to unload a player that’s besmirched the Blue and Gold. His shining moment to rid the team of the missed practices and the off-ice debauchery. To once again restore order to the locker room.
Murray brings the phone back to his ear. “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?”
“I want Kane,” Fletcher says. Murray is now scanning the Minny roster and sees Jonas Brodin. Tall. Fit. Responsible. LEFT HANDED.
“I’m listening,” Murray says.
And they talk. And they come to a gentleman’s agreement. And they both head out of their offices with a set of smiles, knowing they’d just helped their teams.
Murray is on his way to his office to fax the paperwork to the league, when he sees a familiar face on a TV screen. It’s Evander Kane. Soon-to-be-former Buffalo Sabre. But the news isn’t good. Kane is once again in trouble with the law for harassing citizens of the Queen City. Beads of sweat begin to form on Murray’s furrowed brow as he fumbles in his pocket for his phone. He rings up Fletcher, who doesn’t answer. He sends a quick text, but gets an odd reply: “New phone. Who dis?”
Murray, defeated, drops to his knees. The swell of anger and frustration overtakes Murray. “KAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNE!” He screams, and each reverbation off the corridor wall is another splash of the acid welling up in his stomach. There would be no Kane trade. The deal was dead just as it had started.
This, of course, is a fictional dramatization of reported events. On the November 1 edition of the Marek vs Wyshinski Podcast, insider Jeff Marek drops a bomb on listeners, stating (paraphrased) that Murray almost had a deal done to send Kane packing, but that his most recent run-in with the law had killed the deal dead.
Further salt in the very fresh wound was Michael Russo, who confirmed that it was Minnesota that was interested in Kane, and had walked away from talks because of Kane’s off-ice issues.
Now Buffalo is left pondering what could have been. What if Risto had gotten his left-handed defenseman? Would the analytics crowd finally see what Buffalo fans do? Would the ability to properly move the puck out of the zone increase his possession stats?
One has to wonder what threats Murray has levied at Kane behind closed doors. Time and time again, GMTM has had to answer questions about the troubled talent, and ultimately, the trouble hasn’t been worth it. Haunted by injuries and seemingly unable to conduct himself like a decent human being, Kane has brought little to the table.
Murray has a lot of egg on his face at this point. He took a flyer on a kid who had a spotty history because people deserve second chances. Unfortunately, Kane’s performances off the ice have garnered far more attention than anything he’s accomplished in agame.
As a fanbase, Buffalo wanted to believe so badly, too. They wanted to be the city that tamed Kane, brought him in under their wing, and gave him a heart of gold and a Stanley Cup.
The opportunity has passed – both for redemption and for a trade. Kane will likely remain on the Buffalo roster until the expansion draft, where he’ll have a chance to take his one-man show to Vegas.
In a time when trades are so few and far between, this would have been a blockbuster, but in hockey – as in comedy – timing is everything. Tragically, the Sabres appear to be the punchline.
Check out the 716 Sports Podcast's newest shows, "The Blacksmiths." Our new Sabres ONLY show. You'll like what you hear. We promise :)