The biggest trade deadline acquisition the Washington Capitals could make may not cost the team any picks or prospects, but it comes with substantial risk: the baggage of Evander Kane.
While the Edmonton Oilers have been among the teams rumored to be most interested in Kane’s talents, on Jan. 22 Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Washington general manager Brian MacLellan was strongly interested in pursuing the recent San Jose castoff to bolster his lineup in anticipation of a lengthy playoff run this spring.
A big personality blessed with immense talent and competitive fire, Kane’s problems off the ice over the past year are a cautionary tale for any NHL club interested in the forward – for general managers like MacLellan, it all will come down to risk versus reward.
Kane’s Year of Turmoil
To say it’s been a rough year for Kane is an understatement. In August, he was forced to confront allegations about gambling and domestic assault after accusations were made publicly by his estranged wife.
In October, the NHL suspended him for the first 21 games of the season for using a fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination card. The Sharks then terminated Kane’s contract in early January for breach of his Standard Player Contract and violating the AHL’s COVID-19 protocols.
Still, even with all turmoil surrounding him, the termination of Kane’s contract immediately drew the attention of teams looking to add some offensive punch for the second-half of the NHL season.
The lingering item giving teams pause at the moment is the ongoing NHL investigation into the extent of Kane’s violation of restrictions in relation to crossing the border while in COVID-19 protocol. TSN’s Darren Dreger reported on Jan. 25 the league is hoping to have some information to share publicly on the matter by mid-week, meaning that there will likely soon be clarity on Kane’s short and long-term availability for teams interested in his services for the stretch run.
Assessing Kane’s Risk Versus Reward
As much as there can be no denying the challenges that have embattled Kane this year and the baggage that comes with him, it’s also impossible to overlook his potential value to contending teams.
After being drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers fourth overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, the feisty left winger has produced consistently over 12 seasons, amassing 506 points in 769 career NHL games.
Kane has scored 20 or more goals in a season on seven different occasions, including two 30-goal campaigns.
For a Washington Capitals team that’s already missing forwards T.J. Oshie and Anthony Mantha as a result of injury, and with Mantha possibly missing the remainder of the regular season, Kane could be just the tonic needed to get the team’s offense back on track. Over the past month, between injuries and players in and out of COVID-19 protocol, the Capitals have struggled with being able to consistently produce offense.
What’s more, Kane potentially offers depth for a Capitals power play that has also struggled all season, hovering around the 14 percent mark and making them one of the NHL’s least efficient teams. While Kane is no Alex Ovechkin when it comes to production on the man advantage, he’s no slouch either – 47 of his 264 career goals have come on the power play.
What Would it Take?
MacLellan is in a position where, thanks in large part to the Mantha injury, he will have some cap flexibility to add players ahead of the Mar. 21 NHL Trade Deadline. Just how much money Kane is looking for to join a contending team will be critical – he’s just left about $24 million on the table with the termination of his contract, so he surely won’t be signing a league minimum deal.
The Capitals would, however, undoubtedly be looking to get Kane to sign a short-term “show me” deal through the end of the season. Something in the range of $1 million pro-rated would give the winger a chance to show Capitals’ management that he can be both a productive player and a good citizen off the ice.
If such an experiment winds up going well and Kane meshes with the Caps and brings the desired offensive depth then the door could even be opened to an extension.
At 31 years old, Kane isn’t exactly going to make the Caps younger. On a two or three year deal, however, he could fit nicely within Washington’s competitive window with its current core of veteran players.
If acquiring Kane winds up being a failure, MacLellan wouldn’t be bound to him for the long term, nor will he have to give up any prospects or picks to get him – those factors, alone, make him a risk well worth taking for the Capitals.
Pat Hirtle is a communications management professional in municipal government in the hockey hotbed of Nova Scotia, Canada.
With an academic background is history, five years’ experience as co-host of the sports-talk radio show Three For All, and more than a decade in the community newspaper industry as a reporter and award-winning columnist, Pat brings a strong writing, research, and analysis background to his work covering the Washington Capitals for THW.