Back in 2015, when Evander Kane was traded to the Buffalo Sabres, the Vancouver native told reporters that the postseason suited his playing style. Kane never reached the playoffs with the Sabres, but he showed his value after his trade to San Jose. The 30 year old completed a run of 13 goals in 15 games with Edmonton as Kane looks to continue his career. But what do NHL teams think of him?
On the ice, no one doubts the left winger’s ability. He is clearly a physical as well as scoring threat. The dilemma comes with a perception that Kane is at the beat of his own drum.
In every city, not named Edmonton, that Kane finds himself, drama follows. Other than his family, teammates (past and present), and friends, none of us know Evander Kane. We only see the news attached to his name. Distraction, nonetheless, has been inevitable. So what is the argument, for or against, signing Evander Kane?
Argument for Signing Evander Kane
Regardless of what everyone thinks of the character, the pending UFA is an excellent hockey player. If teams are looking for shot generation, Kane is their man. The winger’s 82 game average in shots is 293, rarely having under 200 shot per season, including shortened seasons. And since leaving Buffalo, Kane’s shooting % was never lower than 11.2%. A player can shoot from every angle, which Kane does, but he is finding the back of the net: a skill every team values.
The offensive production is clearly evident with Kane, especially after playing with superstuds like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Despite the goal output, there remains a perception that Kane is completely selfish. On the contrary, he is an extremely hardworking player. If the eye test does not show it, the forward’s career giveaway/takeaway stats (+12) and hits (184 over 82 games) do. In addition, Kane has been a positive possession player (50.8 CorsiFor, 51.0 FenwickFor) for the bulk of his career.
Regardless of what happens off the ice, a player like Evander Kane improves the product on the ice. The Oilers, since drafting McDavid, have never gone further in the playoffs. The winger hits, skates hard, shoots, and scores, especially when paired with centers that can drive play and find him. And 13 playoff goals is hard to ignore for those that need to get over the playoff wall.
Argument for not signing Evander Kane
Evander Kane is, no doubt, a scoring threat whenever he takes the ice…when he takes the ice. In all 13 seasons, EVERY season, Kane has never played 82 games. Sure, he has played full seasons when they were short but most are 82 games and dependability is needed. And it is nothing to do with Kane’s drive, but he has missed games due to poor decision making off of the ice. It is OK to disagree with COVID protocol but to lie about being vaccinated challenges an organization’s trust threshold. In addition to making a foolish decision, Kane was suspended 20 games. Can players and coaches depend on Evander Kane to take the ice or will he selfishly cost his team?
Lack of dependability is one thing. Media distractions are another. And both are undesirable by every NHL club. In Winnipeg, there was the track suit; in Buffalo, sexual assault allegations; in San Jose, more sexual assault allegations, bankruptcy, and lying about being vaccinated. No matter the truth, Kane draws negative attention. Kane’s teammates do not want to be asked about his antics off of the ice as there is enough to be concerned with. There are GMs and coaches who do not want these distractions so everyone is focused on winning. They can find the talent they need and not waste time, or resources, on this locker room hazard.
What should teams do?
Ken Holland definitely took a PR risk when signing Evander Kane to a one-year deal after San Jose terminated his much more lucrative one. It was an immediate distraction but his new teammates defended the decision and player. Despite the media onslaught around the situation, the experiment saw success in the short-term.
The Oilers are now weighing how they handle the player moving forward and thankfully, Holland is a pretty smart GM. At least in the short-term, Evander Kane appears to be a solid fit in Edmonton. My prediction is the Oilers offer a shorter deal, no more that two years, between $5-7 M AAV. Kane will have to take it or risk going to a lesser situation elsewhere. And if I am Holland, I hold firm on a short deal, even a one year, so the winger with the troubled past can prove he is on the right path. Otherwise, the Oilers have another situation like that in San Jose. There will, however, be no COVID protocols for Kane to lie about.