What you get from Evander Kane, when he’s healthy, is some pretty good hockey. But the Buffalo Sabres are finding out what folks in Winnipeg made well-known last year: To get that hockey, you have to accept Kane’s package of distractions as well.
The burly winger, one of Buffalo’s hottest scorers of late, will not be playing Tuesday night against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre after oversleeping and missing practice Monday in First Niagara Center.
But this was no simple wonky alarm clock. Kane posted photos on social media showing him at Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game in Toronto with his sister – and then pictures on his Snapchat account of some drinking escapades after the game. Those pictures were deleted early Monday afternoon but continued to make the rounds on the Internet during the day.
A grim-faced and clearly annoyed coach Dan Bylsma announced the 24-year-old called him and General Manager Tim Murray on Monday morning to tell them he would not be at the workout.
“He slept in, called Tim and myself, broke a team rule,” said Bylsma. “We’ll be dealing with it internally but he will not be playing in Ottawa. I’m disappointed.”
Pointing out that “I know someone who has Twitter,” Bylsma said he had seen the pictures of Kane in question.
Bylsma said he did not know Kane was planning to attend the basketball game but had no issue with it on the theory Kane should have easily been able to be back in Buffalo for the team’s 11 a.m. practice.
“We got out of here about 3:30,” Bylsma said, referring to the team’s departure from the building after Sunday afternoon’s 4-1 win over Colorado. “He could have made it to the game just fine and back.”
A cellphone message left by The Buffalo News with Kane’s agent, Craig Oster, was not returned.
While the Sabres are clearly sitting Kane down because he ran afoul of team rules, it appears the club is simply going to make this a benching and not a suspension. According to WGR Radio, which has a reporter on the team plane as part of its rightsholder agreement, Kane made the trip to Ottawa.
It’s thus likely he will take part in the morning skate and then be subjected to post-practice workouts – including punishment skates – from the Sabres’ assistant coaches. Given that, he would simply be considered a healthy scratch and be paid, rather than the team getting into a potential discussion with the Players Association over an unpaid suspension.
Kane scored his 16th goal of the season Sunday, one off the team lead shared by Ryan O’Reilly and the rookie duo of Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. Kane has five goals in the last six games.
Kane is believed to have flown on a private jet to Toronto, leaving Buffalo at 5:53 p.m. on Sunday and landing at the Billy Bishop Island Airport in downtown Toronto at 6:18 p.m. The game at the nearby Air Canada Centre did not start until about 8:35 p.m.
It’s not clear how and when Kane returned to Buffalo because Flightaware.com, a website that tracked airline departures and arrivals, showed that plane not returning to Buffalo until 12:19 p.m. Monday afternoon.
Kane has a history of jetting to major sporting events. He’s long been a fan of boxing matches in Las Vegas and took a helicopter to Toronto in October with teammates Jamie McGinn and Carlo Colaiacovo to watch an ALCS game between the Blue Jays and Kansas City. Kane also attended an NLCS game between the Mets and Chicago Cubs in New York’s Citi Field with his girlfriend. He returned to Buffalo immediately after those games.
Kane was famously run out of Winnipeg last February by teammates and media after reportedly wearing a track suit to a team meeting prior to a game in Vancouver. He was acquired just over a year ago in a huge trade with the Jets, along with defenseman Zach Bogosian. The Sabres gave up Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, two prospects and a No. 1 draft pick.
This is the second time he has gone off the rails since arriving with the Sabres. He is still involved in an investigation for an incident with a 20-year-old woman that allegedly took place early on the morning of Dec. 27 at the Marriott HarborCenter after the team returned on a flight from Boston. That case is awaiting resolution.
With Kane coming out of the lineup, Johan Larsson returns after missing four games with a lower-body injury. Given those two moves, one potential upshot for the forward lines could see Jamie McGinn moving into Kane’s spot on the top line with Ryan O’Reilly and Sam Reinhart and Zemgus Girgensons moving back to wing alongside Jack Eichel, taking over McGinn’s spot and joining Justin Bailey.
Girgensons would no longer need to play center with Larsson back, and Larsson would return to the middle between Marcus Foligno and Brian Gionta.