The San Jose Sharks approached the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline needing one thing: offense. Their leading scorer, Brent Burns finished the season with just 67 points while Logan Couture was the team’s leading goal-scorer and the only player to hit 30 goals on the season.
So, Doug Wilson made a large trade for Evander Kane. After forcing himself out of Winnipeg, the 26-year-old joined the Sharks from the Buffalo Sabres and potted nine goals and 14 points in 17 games before the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Unfortunately, that success did not carry over to the ensuing postseason.
Regardless, the Sharks wanted to make Kane part of their long-term future. Due to conditional picks included in the trade, Kane not only cost the Sharks $7 million from 2018-19 to 2024-25, but the Sharks also gave up a 2019 first-round draft selection.
Although the Sharks thought the move to San Jose and their culture built by Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, and Logan Couture could eradicate Kane’s off-ice troubles, that has not come to fruition.
The forward has dealt with gambling and financial issues throughout his time in San Jose. He was sued by a Las Vegas Casino on Nov. 5, 2019, for $500k in gambling debts. He even gambled before a Sharks playoff game in 2019.
On Jan. 12, 2020, Kane filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in light of lawsuits filed by Centennial Bank and $1.5 million in gambling debts. After the Sharks’ unimpressive 2020-21 season, Kane’s future with the Sharks looked even more uncertain.
Reportedly, multiple players voiced their discontent with Kane during exit interviews. Just ahead of the 2021 Sharks training camp, Kane was found to have created a fake vaccination card, resulting in a suspension from the NHL. The forward and his hefty contract passed through waivers and he slotted into five American Hockey League games.
Now, the Sharks have placed Kane on unconditional waivers for the purpose of contract termination. The organization will be doing so due to a “breach of his NHL Standard Player Contract and for violation of the AHL COVID-19 protocols.”
Kane and His Contract
Contract termination could honestly be the best-case scenario for the Sharks. The organization would no longer be responsible for the remainder of his contract. Per CapFriendly, the 29-year-old will forfeit the remaining $22.9 million remaining on his contract. And, termination seems most likely at the moment. The NHL’s Deputy Commissioner, Bill Daly, agrees with the franchise’s decision. “I can say we are satisfied that they have adequate grounds to terminate,” said Daly.
Now, the ball is in the court of the NHL’s Player Association. Via Twitter, the union stated that they “are aware of the San Jose Sharks’ stated intent to terminate Evander Kane’s contract.” The NHLPA intends to challenge any such action by filing a grievance.
Eventually, this will come down to if the league believes San Jose has sufficient grounds to terminate Kane’s contract. Dan Milstein, Kane’s agent, does not believe so. As he noted in a Tweet, “the Sharks do not have sufficient grounds for taking this action.”
The grounds taken for contract termination regard a violation of AHL COVID-19 protocol. Per the Athletic’s Kevin Kurz, “The Sharks’ Evander Kanes’ contract termination stems primarily from him traveling to Vancouver while COVID positive, according to multiple sources.”
Should Kane clear waivers and have his contract off their books, the Sharks would have an unexpected $7 million in salary-cap space over each of the next three seasons including 2021-22.
Sharks Gained Financial Stability
While in the AHL, Kane’s depressed cap hit of $5.8 million was essentially wasted. Now, the Sharks have much more money to play with at the NHL Trade Deadline. After their come-from-behind victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, the Sharks are one point ahead of the Edmonton Oilers for the second Western Conference wild-card spot. However, many teams behind the Sharks have at least two games fewer played.
Speaking of the team’s victory yesterday, the victory was fueled by Tomas Hertl’s natural hat trick. Now at 20 goals on the year, Hertl is on pace for a 47-goal and 71-point 2021-22 season. Fortunately for the Czech center, this career year of goal scoring will set him up for a large payday when he is set to hit unrestricted free agency this summer.
Previously, I was incredibly pessimistic the Sharks could retain Hertl and their key restricted free agents in the upcoming offseason. With Mario Ferraro, Jonathan Dahlen, Jacob Middleton, and Nikolai Knyzhov all in need of extensions, $15-16 million seemed inadequate to keep all the youngsters and Hertl.
Now, using CapFriendly, I would be much more optimistic. With closer to $21 million in salary-cap space, the Sharks could probably extend all their players including Hertl at around $7-8 million.
Sharks Immediate Future
The Sharks could be in for a long and grueling process. There’s no telling how long this ordeal could continue should the NHLPA try blocking the contract termination. As for Kane, his future in the NHL could be delayed.
After his fake vaccination card was brought to the league’s attention, Kane received a 21-game suspension. For a second violation of COVID protocols, I would imagine a similar, if not lengthier punishment from the NHL could be handed out.
The Sharks now have more cap space when the trade deadline arrives on Mar. 21. Given their competitiveness for a playoff spot, Wilson could use that space to retain salary in trades for future assets or acquire rentals to contend in the 2022 NHL Playoffs.
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