The Buffalo Sabres and Winnipeg Jets started the run-up to the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline with a bang Wednesday, completing a blockbuster trade that sends forward Evander Kane and defenseman Zach Bogosian to the Buffalo Sabres for a package that includes defenseman Tyler Myers, forward Drew Stafford, two prospects and a first-round pick.
"It’s nice to go somewhere where you feel wanted and you feel that they want to put you in a situation to have success," Kane told Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com.
Buffalo holds three first-round picks in the 2015 NHL Draft. The Sabres have previously acquired first-round picks in this draft from the New York Islanders and the St. Louis Blues. Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said the Sabres will decide which pick is transferred to complete the trade.
"This was not a knee-jerk reaction," Cheveldayoff said, noting there was strong interest in Kane from several teams. "I'm excited what this trade brings to our organization. … I feel good with the 'now,' but I’m really excited about the prospects of the future in this whole deal."
Forwards Joel Armia and Brendan Lemieux are the prospects the Jets acquire in the trade. College goalie Jason Kasdorf, a junior at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, is also going to the Sabres.
Kane, 23, was among the hottest commodities ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline, which is 3 p.m. ET on March 2, in spite of the fact he had shoulder surgery this past weekend and is expected to miss the remainder of the season.
"I'm confident that he wanted a change of scenery," Buffalo general manager Tim Murray said. "In his mind, [he] probably wanted a more important role. I think we've certainly given him the change of scenery today and I think we can give him a more important role. He can be an important guy here.
"You watch him play on the ice. He plays hard. He plays in traffic. He doesn't play a perimeter game. He plays a heavy game. He scores goals around the net. He plays the game right."
Kane had 14 goals and 25 points in 38 games this season. He has 109 goals and 222 points in 361 games over the past six seasons, all with the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg franchise.
"He's a big, strong, fast guy who can get in on the forecheck as well as anyone I've ever seen," Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said of Kane, who has been the subject of trade rumors in recent weeks. "He wants to be a No. 1 guy, and I'll think he'll get that chance in Buffalo."
Bogosian, 24, has three goals and 13 points in 41 games for the Jets. Myers, 25, has four goals and 13 points in 47 games. Myers and Bogosian each have contracts that run through the 2018-19 season.
"He's big, he can skate and he can shoot," Cheveldayoff said of Myers. "He can log a lot of minutes. … He'll have an opportunity to play with a deeper defense corps."
Stafford, 29, has nine goals and 24 points in 50 games. He could be a replacement for Kane, and is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
Maurice said by adding Stafford it will allow Dustin Byfuglien to move back to defenseman, where he has excelled this season when the Jets were hit with injuries at the position.
Lemieux, selected in the second round (No. 31) of the 2014 draft by the Sabres, has 35 goals, 50 points and 120 penalty minutes in 46 games for the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League. He is the son of former NHL player Claude Lemieux. He's also unsigned, so the Jets would need to agree on an entry-level contract before the 2016 draft.
Armia, 21, was selected in the first round (No. 16) of the 2011 draft by the Sabres. The Finnish forward (6-foot-3, 192 pounds) has 10 goals and 25 points in 32 games with the Rochester Americans in the American Hockey League; he played one game for the Sabres this season. According to the Jets, Armia will report to their AHL affiliate in St. John's, Newfoundland.
Kasdorf, 22, is 9-14-0 with a .900 save percentage for RPI. The Sabres will hold his rights while he remains in college and for 30 days after he leaves school.
The Sabres later acquired goaltender Anders Lindback and a conditional third-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft from the Dallas Stars in a trade for goaltender Jhonas Enroth.
The Sabres are in 30th place in the NHL standings. Any team that does not make the playoffs has a chance to select forward Connor McDavid of the Erie Otters, one of the most-hyped prospects since Sidney Crosby was available in 2005, with the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
The team that finishes last in the standings will be guaranteed to pick no worse than second, which likely means adding McDavid or forward Jack Eichel of Boston University, another elite-level prospect. Should the Sabres finish in last place, they would likely be adding either McDavid or Eichel along with the No. 2 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, center Sam Reinhart, and Kane to their active roster next season.
"We're in 30th place, so that dictates we try to get better," Murray said. "I'm not going to put years on it or days on it, but this speeds [the rebuilding process] up."