WASHINGTON -- It's clear that Evander Kane has played his last game for the Buffalo Sabres.
Kane was a healthy scratch for Saturday night's 5-1 loss to the Washington Capitals, with a trade almost certainly taking place before Monday's 3 p.m. NHL deadline. It's a virtual certainty he will also sit out Sunday's 5 p.m. game against the Boston Bruins in KeyBank Center.
Provided, of course, he's not already dealt by then.
The Sabres did not have a morning skate Saturday because of a Georgetown-Providence college basketball game in Capital One Arena, so Kane's status was uncertain until coach Phil Housley made the announcement during his routine pregame briefing with reporters about two hours before the opening faceoff. Players learned during their gameday meal at the team hotel.
"Management thought it was the best decision moving forward and the best decision for Evander," Housley said. "... That's the situation for right now."
The Sabres did not sit 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, played goal and took the loss as Buffalo's six-game road point streak ended.
"It's the unfortunate part of this time of the year," Lehner said. "It can happen to anyone. It's a business and they wanted to sit him out. He wanted to be out there. He wanted to play. We'll see what happens. If something happens, I wish him the best."
Kane was seen after the game in a restricted area of the dressing room. Because he did not play in the game, the Sabres did not make him available for comment. He had practiced fully Friday in Arlington, Va., when the Sabres worked out at the Caps' suburban facility.
Housley said he was told to sit Kane Saturday by General Manager Jason Botterill, who is not on the team's road trip and is taking care of trade deadline duties from his office in Buffalo. The team was clearly making sure to not take any chances with a injury that could derail a potential deal.
"I'd be lying to say I was surprised by it," said winger Jason Pominville. "There's been a lot of guys that have been held off the ice and he's definitely a guy that has probably drawn a lot of interest. You don't want him to get hurt. I think overall, it's probably a smart move. "
Kane, a pending unrestricted free agent, has 20 goals and 20 assists in 61 games this season, second on the team in goals to the injured Jack Eichel. He has scored at least 20 goals in all three of his seasons with Buffalo after being 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."
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-rounder if he receives a higher-rated prospect.
Teams with Stanley Cup aspirations like 2017 finalists Pittsburgh and Nashville are known to be among the interested in Kane. Several other Western Conference clubs are reported to be looking at him as well; the Sabres had two scouts in Chicago Friday night for the Hawks' game against the San Jose Sharks, who are believed to be interested.
"I really have no idea," Kane told reporters in Buffalo on Wednesday before the team left on its road trip. "I'm going to find out just like you guys do."
Kane is the latest NHL player to be benched in anticipation of a deadline move. Rick Nash has sat out the last two games for the New York Rangers and Michael Grabner 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."