Evander Kane is just trying to play hockey but it's never going to be that simple.
There's always some sort of undercurrent rumbling around the Buffalo Sabres' winger, who's made far too much news off the ice than on it the last 2-1/2 years.
The latest tempest is whether or not Kane is staying in Buffalo. His hometown team, the Vancouver Canucks, has been on the prowl for him but the timing of a trade is quite odd. Kane has no goals in seven games since returning from the rib injuries he suffered in the season opener and still has another year left on his contract at a cap hit of $5.25 million.
"This is a business, first and foremost, no matter what anybody tries to tell you or what the fans may think," Kane said Monday in KeyBank Center. "It's a business and business people make business decisions, while the players make the best business decisions for themselves when they have that opportunity. We all know that. For me, it's nothing I can concern myself too much with.
"I like to think I'm pretty well informed, but at the same time you never know what can happen. I don't worry about it. I'm very, very, very happy with where I'm at here in Buffalo. And maybe I couldn't have said that in the past in my career."
Sometimes you catch a player off guard when you ask about trade rumors. Jason Pominville's name was everywhere at the deadline in 2013 and he seemed to be oblivious to it all until Darcy Reiger actually sent him packing to Minnesota. Kane, meanwhile, knew all about this discussion.
"It's funny to me that even some of my buddies are asking me about all the Vancouver rumors," he said with a laugh. "That's kind of how I follow it, with other people asking me. I don't usually pay too much attention to it. When it happened, the one time in my career getting traded from Winnipeg, I heard it from my agent. So that's when I knew it was factual."
The Sabres aren't shopping Kane but were certainly listening when the Canucks called, no doubt in the wake of his summer issues at Bottoms Up on Chippewa. For his part, Kane is far more interested in trying to score a goal at this point than worrying if there's a next destination in his future.
In his first four games after returning from the injury, Kane totaled just five shots on goal and had a minus-5 rating. The last three games have been appreciably better with nine shots and a minus-2. Kane seemed quite a bit more engaged in Saturday's shootout win over Pittsburgh, playing 21 minutes, 30 seconds, and was strong Monday in a season-high 22:34 with four shots, six attempts, three takeaways and a key block in the third period during a scramble around the Buffalo net.
Kane came out flying in the season opener against Montreal. He had three shots on goal in just over 12 1/2 minutes of ice time and was whizzing up and down his wing. The Sabres were going to need a lot from him -- and many others, of course -- in the wake of Jack Eichel's injury and Kane certainly looked ready to provide it.
Then came the car-crash collision with the end boards that produced four cracked ribs. Talk about a dead stop to a season. Kane missed 11 games and, frankly, it was a surprise he was back in the lineup as quickly as he was.
"I felt really good in the first two periods I played in that game and felt I could have had a couple goals," Kane said of the opener. "Then you're out and to go goalless in these games coming off that injury is tough. It's been a team struggle for sure. I don't know if you can say it makes it easier but hopefully we get one of those games where it's 4-0 or 5-0 early."
The rumors about Kane have been percolating the last couple of weeks and reached a crescendo over the weekend, until Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman said the Sabres' asking price was too high and the Canucks cooled things down. The Sabres need help on the blueline and were likely interested in 23-year-old Ben Hutton or former RIT standout Chris Tanev.
"They're more in Canada than I get the sense they're actually real," coach Dan Bylsma said of the Kane rumors Monday. "A lot of people need to talk and seem to be making it up about that."
That's a little overboard. The Canadian media certainly does need to feed the beast and talk, talk, talk. For all the rumors we hear, how many actual trades ever get done in the summer or during the season? You get the point.
But there's certainly traction on this particular case. Canucks assistant GM John Weisbrod was on the scouting list for the Sabres' game here Thursday against Tampa Bay. And while Weisbrod was likely headed to the farm team in Utica to check in on embattled top prospect Jake Virtanen, why else would he care about a Sabres-Lightning game in November?
The Sabres are simply listening to anyone who calls about anything. As they should. The Vancouver media, for its part, thinks the Canucks' dalliance with Kane is absurd.
"That the Canucks are interested in Kane at all strikes to the core of everything that’s wrong with this team," opined columnist Jason Botchford in the Vancouver Province. "A Kane trade is a move a winner makes, a buy-low bet on an expensive problem winger who you hope can push you over the top before he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season. It’s not a move a rebuilding team makes. Just look at how great it’s gone for the Sabres."
Despite the reports in Canada, it would be no surprise to see Kane or others moved at some point. The Sabres were reportedly in heavy trade talks over the weekend, whether on Kane or perhaps that elusive addition to their defense.
Kane, of course, is no stranger to the hysteria of the Canadian media. The well-documented end of his time in Winnipeg was a complete circus and TSN framed him as criticizing his Buffalo teammates for their lack of offense following Thursday's loss to Tampa Bay, a complete misrepresentation of what Kane said.
"It's nothing new for me, something I've dealt with," he said. "There's been bad reporting, inaccurate reporting, confused reporting, silly reporting. And then you have accurate reporting too. I'm used to it all. For me, I really don't care because you can't worry about it. ... I'm happy with what I'm doing. I'm focused on hockey."
Kane said the trade story is an easy one to run with in Canada so it makes sense, especially for a Vancouver team clearly on the downside with an embattled coach (Willie Desjardins) and general manager (Jim Benning).
"That's how things go sometimes but I'm just worried about what we're doing here," he said. "You can't lose five or six in a row and we did. We have to be better. It was so big to end that slide against Pittsburgh. We're still five points out of a wild-card slot. It's nothing crazy there. You win three or four in a row and you make that up. For us, that has to be our mindset."