VANCOUVER – When people in Buffalo talk about Evander Kane, the discussion centers around where he'll be traded this year. Now that he's home, the talk is where he'll be next year.
Folks in Vancouver hope it's this picturesque city on the water.
The left winger is one of the top pending free agents in the NHL, and the Sabres are expected to move him for assets prior to the Feb. 26 trade deadline. Kane has no say over where he'll finish this season, but he has complete control over where he signs this summer.
"It's something that I don't necessarily try to keep out of my mind," Kane said before facing the Canucks in Rogers Arena. "It's part of the process, part of being a professional. It's a position that every player wants to have.
"I just realize that will happen, but at the same time we're in season and I'm excited about playing hockey. I enjoy playing hockey, and that's all I can do right now."
The 26-year-old likely anticipates free agency more than most considering his history. He spent four seasons in Winnipeg, and he asked for a trade every year. The opportunity to pick a home will be relished – when the time comes.
"You just try to keep the focus in the present and trust that everything will work itself out when the time's right," Kane said. "I've talked to players that have gone through it before, and lots of different things can happen before free agency. I guess it's good to have options."
One will be Vancouver. The Canucks are searching for talent as the era of Daniel and Henrik Sedin winds down. The team will have plenty of money to spend as the twins' $7 million contracts come off the books.
Kane has been on the radar in Vancouver since he was a kid. He excelled in the city's youth system and played junior hockey for the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League. He recorded 48 goals and 96 points in 61 games during his final season of 2008-09. The goal total remains the franchise record, though Ty Ronning is on the verge of breaking it with 42 goals in 48 games.
Obviously, Canucks fans are aware of what they'd be getting.
"I'm from here, so I understand the question," Kane said. "But for me, it's not something I'm thinking about right now. When and if that time comes, we'll make those decisions.
"Vancouver is obviously a town that loves hockey, and that's fun to be part of."
Almost inevitably, a question came regarding Kane's past transgressions and off-ice attitude. He calmly swatted it away.
"I think I've got great character, to be honest," Kane said. "I think I show that on and off the ice on a day-to-day basis."
Kane returned home ranking second on the Sabres in goals (16) and points (36) after 48 games. He also arrived in a rare slump. He has just one goal and one assist in the last 11 games. He has dropped to the third line with center Johan Larsson and right wing Jason Pominville.
"I've had some bad puck luck there," Kane said. "I've got to keep shooting the puck, and things will start to turn around for sure."
Sabres coach Phil Housley agrees.
"He's been stymied a lot," Housley said. "He's had some really, really good looks and just hasn't been able to finish, or the goaltender's making some incredible saves. He's got to keep working. You've got to work your way through these things.
"I like the way he shoots the puck. He's got a shot mentality. One thing I think he can do a little bit better is get to the net. Sometimes you go there, you get a greasy one, you get a dirty one, and you can start from there."
Story topics: Evander Kane