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Sabres trade Kane, end winger's roller-coaster run in Buffalo

Tim Murray summed up Evander Kane's stay in Buffalo on the day Kane arrived.

It wasn't all unicorns and rainbows and jujubes.

Kane's roller-coaster run with the Sabres ended Monday when the team traded him to the San Jose Sharks. The Sabres received a conditional first-round pick in 2019, a conditional fourth-rounder in 2020 and forward prospect Dan O'Regan, a college teammate of Sabres center Jack Eichel.

The first-round pick is conditional on Kane re-signing with San Jose after the season. If the unrestricted free agent-to-be signs elsewhere, Buffalo will get a second-rounder in 2019.

The marquee deal closed a three-month drama in which the only intrigue was where Kane would go, not if.

It was a three-year Buffalo career full of headlines. There were goals and handcuffs. He made friends and enemies. There were joyous days for children and an investigation of sexual assault.

On the ice, losses outnumbered wins. As a result, the left winger is gone.

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When Murray acquired Kane as part of a blockbuster deal in February 2015, the then-Sabres general manager envisioned a high-scoring, hard-hitting winger who would lead the young players and help Buffalo make the playoffs. The scoring and hitting were on point. The other areas fell way, way short.

Kane is tied for 42nd in the NHL in goals since the start of the 2015-16 season, scoring 68 times and adding 50 assists in 196 games. When Kane was on his game, he struck fear into goaltenders and defensemen while barreling into the offensive zone. Until his departure was a foregone conclusion, Kane was one of the Sabres' most consistent players from the opening faceoff to the final buzzer.

It was the other times that caused problems. Kane leaves behind two criminal investigations and a team that's in shambles.

Buffalo police looked into a possible sexual assault in Kane's hotel room in December 2015. Although no charges were filed, the woman later sued Kane for causing injuries and emotional trauma. He filed a countersuit claiming she was trying to defame him.

In June 2016, Kane faced one misdemeanor trespass charge and noncriminal violations of disorderly conduct and harassment after two female patrons and a bouncer at a downtown club reported Kane grabbed the women and pulled their hair and neck, then refused a bouncer’s orders to leave. The charges were dismissed after Kane avoided any other trouble for six months.

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Though no one could have predicted the incidents, Kane's reputation in Winnipeg was far from sterling when Murray swung the deal to acquire him from the Jets on Feb. 11, 2015.

"So it wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows and jujubes," Murray said of Kane's past at the news conference. "It never is with any player. I mean, players have warts. The best players have warts."

At first, Kane made the most of his fresh start. He was an ideal combination of skill and toughness in the speed-driven NHL. He was engaging and optimistic. In December 2015, he treated 50 children from the Boys and Girls Club of Buffalo to dinner and a $10,000 shopping spree. The goodwill was flowing.

A couple of weeks later, the sexual assault investigation began. Two months later, the Sabres suspended Kane for a game because he partied too hard at the NBA All-Star Game in Toronto and missed practice.

Practice was never Kane's forte, as he'll freely admit. Usually, as soon as coaches Dan Bylsma and Phil Housley ended the formal portion of a workout, Kane would bolt from the ice while others enhanced their skills.

It was not what Murray initially envisioned from a player averaging $5.25 million a season.

"We’re going to be adding young guys as we go along, and they need the right people to follow," Murray said after acquiring Kane and defenseman Zach Bogosian. "I think these two guys fix that."

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Instead, Kane's practice and pregame routines set a bad example. Though certainly not all Kane's fault, the Sabres are a lackadaisical club that can't escape the bottom of the NHL because of inconsistent efforts.

It was clearly time for the Sabres to start over and not re-sign the pending unrestricted free agent. The shopping began in earnest when Buffalo stumbled early in the season.

Buffalo failed to make the playoffs in any of Kane's three healthy seasons, including this year. The only time the Sabres "won" with Kane was the end of the 2014-15 season, when his absence due to season-ending shoulder surgery in Winnipeg allowed the talent-starved team to finish last and secure Jack Eichel in the NHL Draft.

Though Kane certainly had his on-ice moments – he scored 28 goals last season and has 20 in 61 games this year – the original plan was to build a winner with Kane as a centerpiece.

It never happened, and he's gone.

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