NHL Rumor Roundup: Sabres' steep asking price for Evander Kane stirs debate over worth

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Sabres general manager Jason Botterill seeks a big return for his best trade chip, while the Canadiens and Blue Jackets are linked in the rumor mill once again.

NHL Rumor Roundup: Sabres' steep asking price for Evander Kane stirs debate over worth

Sabres general manager Jason Botterill seeks a big return for his best trade chip, while the Canadiens and Blue Jackets are linked in the rumor mill once again.

It's NHL trade rumor season. Each week before the Feb. 26 trade deadline, Lyle Richardson's Rumor Roundup column serves as a one-stop guide to the latest rumblings around the league.

The floundering Sabres are expected to move Evander Kane before the Feb. 26 NHL trade deadline. The 26-year-old left wing is due to become an unrestricted free agent in July and could seek a significant raise over his current $5.25 million annual average salary. He might not fit into the Sabres' long-term plans.

The asking price, however, is steep.

Last week, TSN's Pierre LeBrun reported Sabres general manager Jason Botterill sought a first-round draft pick, a prospect and a conditional pick. On Tuesday, his colleague Darren Dreger followed that up in saying there are teams claiming Botterill also wants an NHL roster player included in that package.

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Botterill can't be blamed for pursuing a big return for his best trade chip. His club is stuck in the Eastern Conference basement and he faces a busy offseason attempting to improve his roster. Getting a good return for Kane could prove a crucial step in his rebuilding efforts.

With Kane on pace for a 30-goal, 65-point season, he will be an enticing trade target for postseason contenders seeking additional scoring punch. Suitors could include the Ducks, Blue Jackets, Penguins and Blues.

It's doubtful, however, any of them will give up four pieces to acquire a rental player, even one as talented as Kane.

At best, he should fetch the Sabres a first-round pick (likely in the bottom-third of the round) and either a young player, prospect or conditional pick.

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Dubois not untouchable?

During Hockey Night in Canada's “Headlines” intermission segment last Saturday, Nick Kypreos reported the Canadiens were interested in Blue Jackets rookie Pierre-Luc Dubois. He said the Habs attempted to trade up during the 2016 NHL Draft to land the youngster, who was promoted in November to the Jackets' first line with winger Artemi Panarin and Josh Anderson.

Despite the 19-year-old Dubois' rising stock, Kypreos isn't sure he's among Columbus' untouchable players. He doubts they'll consider moving Dubois until they've had the opportunity to evaluate their lineup once its fully healthy. Center Alexander Wennberg recently returned from a back injury, but forwards Brandon Dubinsky (fractured orbital bone) and Cam Atkinson (fractured foot) remain sidelined.

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Given the Canadiens' lack of skilled depth at center, their supposed interest in Dubois is understandable The Jackets, meanwhile, reportedly seek offensive depth. Kypreos' colleague Elliotte Friedman said they were looking at Habs forward Alex Galchenyuk earlier in the season, though he's uncertain if the Montreal winger remains on their radar.

A Dubois-for-Galchenyuk swap could be quite attractive to the Canadiens, assuming the young Columbus center is available. However, that seems unlikely.

Dubois has established good chemistry with Panarin and Anderson. With the Jackets jockeying for postseason position in the Eastern Conference and a recent rash of injuries currently hampering their offense, peddling their first-line center is the last thing they should do.

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Senators drawing interest

The ongoing decline of the Senators this season ensures they'll remain a fixture in the NHL rumor mill. GM Pierre Dorion apparently isn't interested in a full roster tear-down, but instead wants to bring in younger players.

On Sunday, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported Dorion is willing to discuss pretty much everyone except defenseman Erik Karlsson and winger Mark Stone. There's been calls about center Derick Brassard, but Garrioch said it's believed he's not going anywhere.

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Forwards Mike Hoffman, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Zack Smith have frequently come up in recent media-driven trade chatter. Garrioch cited a league executive claiming the Blues, Flames, Panthers and Sharks may have expressed interest in those three.

Of the trio, Hoffman has the most value and could fetch the best return. He's a three-time 20-goal scorer who could hit that mark again this season.

Hoffman's contract, however, could be a stumbling block. He carries a $5.1 million annual cap hit through 2019-20 along with a 10-team no-trade list. Still, he could prove attractive for teams seeking a scoring winger who's signed beyond this season.

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Despite demotion, Martin remains a trade candidate

Sharks defenseman Paul Martin cleared waivers Tuesday and reported to the club's AHL affiliate. While it could be the last time the 36-year-old blueliner skates for the Sharks, he could make his return with another NHL club before the trade deadline.

It's been a difficult season for Martin, who underwent ankle surgery in the offseason and subsequently reaggravated the injury in October. He was waylaid for 24 games and struggled to crack the Sharks' lineup upon his return.

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Prior to the demotion, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported the Sharks were attempting to find a trade for Martin. He has a limited no-trade clause, but his agent was given permission to speak with other clubs. TSN's Pierre LeBrun said a couple of playoff contenders expressed interest but wanted to see Martin play.

Besides Martin's age and recent injury concerns, his contract is also a sticking point. He carries a $4.85 million annual average value through 2018-19. Skating in the AHL will give clubs seeking blueline depth (Islanders? Maple Leafs?) an opportunity to determine if Martin can still contribute at the NHL level. If he plays well, it could improve his trade value, though the Sharks might have to pick up part of his cap hit to sweeten the deal.

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