WASHINGTON — Evander Kane will not play for the Buffalo Sabres Saturday night against the Washington Capitals, as the team has opted to make him a healthy scratch with a trade apparently imminent before Monday's 3 p.m. NHL deadline.
"Management thought it was the best decision moving forward and the best decision for Evander," coach Phil Housley said in his pregame media briefing two hours before faceoff. "... That's the situation for right now."
The Sabres aren't sitting out any other potential trade pieces such as winger Benoit Pouliot, defenseman Josh Gorges or either of their goalies. Robin Lehner, a restricted free agent also rumored to be of interest to teams, will start in the net.
Kane, a pending unrestricted free agent, has 20 goals and 20 assists in 61 games this season. He has scored at least 20 goals in all three of his seasons with Buffalo. He was acquired from Winnipeg in 2015 as the key part to a seven-player trade that also included a first-round draft pick going from Buffalo to the Jets.
"It's always difficult when you come to these situations," Housley said. "You're taking 20 goals out of the lineup but I understand the business part of it and our management thought it was in the best interest to sit Evander out tonight."
Kane practiced fully on Friday in Arlington, Va. Housley said he was told by General Manager Jason Botterill earlier Saturday to keep Kane out of the lineup. The Sabres did not have a morning skate Saturday because of a Georgetown-Providence basketball game in Capital One Arena.
Kane was not seen entering the Sabres' dressing room with the bulk of his teammates when the bus arrived at the arena at 4;50 p.m. Housley said he would, however, be in the building during the game.
If a trade is not completed by then, it's expected that Kane will also sit Sunday's 5 p.m. game against the Boston Bruins in KeyBank Center. That is the team's final game prior to the deadline.
Kane's destination remains uncertain, although teams with Stanley Cup aspirations like 2017 finalists Pittsburgh and Nashville are known to be among the interested. Several other Western Conference clubs are reported to be looking at Kane, and the Sabres had two scouts in Chicago Friday night for the Hawks' game against the San Jose Sharks, who are also believed to be interested in Kane.
It's been known for several weeks the Sabres are looking for 3-4 pieces in return for Kane, including a first-round draft pick. In recent days, the first round talk has cooled slightly, with TSN reporting Botterill may be willing to accept a second-round pick if the prospect he receives is a higher-rated player.
Kane is just the latest NHL player to be sat out in anticipation of a deadline move. Rick Nash has sat out the last two games for the New York Rangers and Michael Grabbner was a healthy scratch for Thursday's game against Montreal before being traded to New Jersey.
The Canadiens benched veteran center Tomas Plekanac for their game Saturday against Tampa Bay while Ottawa sat veteran defenseman Johnny Odyua for its matinee against Philadelphia. Interestingly, however, the Senators did not sit captain Erik Karlsson for that game. Rumors of a mega deal involving the former Norris Trophy winner have mushroomed in the last few days.
"I can't remember this being with so many players but I think it's just the stituation that they're in risking injury and moving forward as organizations do," Housley said. "But it is quite interesting that so many players are out."
Housley said Nick Baptiste and Jordan Nolan will both play tonight, with Pouliot moving up to take Kane's spot with Ryan O'Reilly and Sam Reinhart.