Evander Kane to the Penguins? Examining the Possibilities

Evander Kane Jets
Evander Kane (Bruce Fedyck-US PRESSWIRE)

Jim Rutherford tells it like it is.

Unlike his predecessor, former Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero, Rutherford says what he’s going to do…and then he does it.

Shero was more of a modern-age GM. He managed the message, strategically leaked information to the rest of the league and always presented his best poker face. The only way to learn his strategies was to watch how he played his hand at the table.

Rutherford doesn’t care about that element of the job.  It’s worth paying attention to everything he says.

Sportsnet’s Mark Spector had a great piece on Wednesday that touched on Rutherford’s perspective on the upcoming March 2 trade deadline:

“We haven’t seen this team yet,” Rutherford said. “We’ve managed to stay near the top of the East with all the adversity that we’ve dealt with, and all the different players who have come in. Now, I’m hoping we get to see our team. And even with that, Maata won’t play ’til training camp, and Dupuis is a top-six forward.”

Rutherford’s dad was in the car business, and that’s a good thing. Because in his first year as Penguins GM, there will be some wheeling and dealing to do prior to the deadline. He wants a defenceman for sure, and a left-winger to put next to Malkin is also a priority.

The last line caught my attention. While it wasn’t a direct quote, it still seems like something Rutherford passed along to Spector and isn’t too different from what he’s been saying all year.

Prior to Pascal Dupuis’ blood clot issue, Rutherford was already looking for a top-six winger.  Dupuis’ situation just meant there was probably a need for two.

Easier said than done, of course, but David Perron certainly fills one of those holes.  Now we know that Rutherford is targeting a left wing that can play alongside Evgeni Malkin.

In light of Evander Kane’s bizarre situation in Winnipeg, I’m starting to think there’s a possible deal to be made.

Would I do it?  No.

But I think Jim Rutherford might.

Gary Lawless at the Winnipeg Free Press wrote on Wednesday that Kane was scratched the night before against Vancouver for violating a dress code.

The version I heard was a bit more nuanced than Lawless’ account, but nonetheless I agree with his conclusion that this feels like the end of the road for Kane as a Jet.

Why Evander Kane?

Evander Kane Jets
(Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)

There will be dozens of articles this week promoting the value of Kane to all 29 NHL teams not named the Winnipeg Jets.

Evander Kane is a goal-scoring, power forward.  He scored 30 goals in just 74 games of the 2011-12 season, but critics point to the rest of his résumé that doesn’t include another 20 goal season.

Some in Winnipeg are convinced he’s overrated — a high-flying player that stands out with his physical edge but is missing key skills like vision and playmaking abilities.

Lawless recently argued that Kane wasn’t a natural goal scorer, or even top-six talent.

Fortunately, From the moment Kane started playing in Winnipeg up until now, he’s 53 goals in 3315 five-on-five minutes. This places Kane 44th in the entire NHL in goal scoring pace, and second of any Jet (FYI: Andrew Ladd is 43rd, Mathieu Perreault is 45th, and Blake Wheeler is 125th). Keep in mind that there are 90 players in the NHL on a first line, and 180 players in top six positions. For more context, Sidney Crosby is at 42nd and Patrick Kane is 41st.” Garret Hohl at NHLNumbers.com put together a statistical counter to this notion that’s more than just throwing advanced stats against a wall to see what sticks.

Take Kane’s scoring rate:

From the moment Kane started playing in Winnipeg up until now, he’s scored 53 goals in 3315 five-on-five minutes. This places Kane 44th in the entire NHL in goal scoring pace, and second of any Jet…Keep in mind that there are 90 players in the NHL on a first line, and 180 players in top six positions. For more context, Sidney Crosby is at 42nd and Patrick Kane is 41st.

That sounds like a natural goal scorer to me, especially in light of Evander Kane’s middling linemates like Adam Lowry, Mark Scheifele, and Olli Jokinen, as Hohl goes on to point out.

Evgeni Malkin is one of the game’s best playmakers. Creative players with good vision definitely succeed on his wings, but Malkin’s best seasons have been when physical forwards like Chris Kunitz and Ryan Malone have been clearing space for him on the wing.

Kane definitely doesn’t have the quick release of James Neal, who made a living finding the soft spots in coverage and waiting for Malkin to feed him the puck.  That’s one significant concern I have with Kane’s ability to mesh with Malkin long-term.

From a salary perspective, Kane is signed for three more seasons at a cap hit of $5.25 million.  It’s not often that 23-year-old forwards with the potential to score 30+ goals on reasonable long-term contracts become available.

When they do, it’s typically because they have warts.

I won’t pretend to grasp the details of Kane’s immaturity or behavioral issues.  I just know that Rutherford wants a left wing for Malkin’s line and he wants a player that can score goals by going hard to the net.

Evander Kane seems like his fit.

Beau Bennett (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
Beau Bennett (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

 What Will Pittsburgh Give Up?

This isn’t the first (or the second) time Kane’s name has circulated in trade rumors.

I remember hearing a year or two ago that the Jets were asking for two top-six forwards, a good prospect, and a high draft pick in any deal for Kane.  That fits with the standard return for a top-line winger — Rick Nash fetched Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, prospect Tim Erixson, and a first-round pick in a 2012 deal.

I’m not sure Kane is as highly-regarded (overrated?) as Nash, especially in light of his recent transgressions.

The Jets obviously haven’t gotten that return for him yet, which means three of those four desired pieces is probably more reasonable.

Do the Penguins have what it takes to ante up for Kane?

I think so.

Remember the quote about Rutherford wanting a left wing for Malkin?  David Perron prefers the left wing, yet the Penguins shifted him to right wing on Sidney Crosby’s line for the time being so Chris Kunitz could retain his spot on the left.

Why not shift Kunitz or Perron down to Malkin’s line?

I’m not sure what’s going on with Kunitz.  Something just doesn’t seem right there.  He’s been playing disengaged for most of the season.  There’s been a recent undercurrent of speculation on social media that he could be (or wants to be) moved, but no one has gone on the record with details yet.

Either way, Kunitz seems like a logical centerpiece in any Kane deal.

The Penguins need to get younger and Kunitz’s Stanley Cup resume is exactly what an inexperienced Jets team needs.

Perron would slide back to his preferred position at left wing. Patric Hornqvist would jump to Crosby’s right side.  Kane and Blake Comeau would flank Evgeni Malkin on a second line.

That sounds like a good playoff fit.

Beau Bennett is the second piece I see being included in any potential deal. His career-long struggles with injuries, mumps, and most recently healthy scratches are no secret. Bennett seems like a player who just needs a change of scenery at this point to hit the reset button.

I think a handful of teams will be interested in taking a chance that the 2010 first-round pick can still evolve into a good winger.  Joffrey Lupul and Justin Williams are two players that battled the injury-prone label early in their careers only to later become successful in other cities.

As far as the third piece in the deal, that’s tough to predict.

The Penguins already dealt their 2015 first round pick to Edmonton in the Perron deal.  They lost their third round pick in last year’s trade for Marcel Goc.  I don’t think Rutherford can afford to sacrifice a second rounder as well without giving the Penguins long-term depth problems.

From a prospect perspective, I wouldn’t include Derrick Pouliot or Scott Harrington in any deal at this point.

Pouliot has looked very good at times this season and his potential as a Sergei Gonchar caliber defensemen seems great if he can find a way to play consistently on both ends of the ice.

Harrington hasn’t been as impressive.  He seems overmatched as a 21-year-old right now but I think the tools are there for him to slide into Paul Martin’s void in the coming seasons.

Depres Penguins
Simon Despres (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

That leaves a player like Simon Despres, whose name doesn’t come up nearly as much as it should in talks of potential trade pieces.  Despres has finally escaped the limitations of the Ray Shero / Dan Bylsma regime and become a solid #4/#5 defenseman this year.

I don’t know that his ceiling is much higher than that though and his departure wouldn’t leave a significant hole in the Penguins’ defense, especially if Rutherford is also pursuing another defenseman.

The Jets have nine NHL-roster defensemen right now, so finding room for Despres might be a challenge.

That leaves me with Brian Dumoulin.  Rutherford drafted Dumoulin in Carolina back in 2009.  He’s a big body that can skate and move the puck, yet his departure wouldn’t be a big deal with the Penguins’ defensive prospect depth.

Finally, what would the salary implications of a Kane for Kunitz, Bennett, Dumoulin trade look like?

Kane carries a $5.25 million cap hit, while Kunitz+Bennett total $4.75 million (Dumoulin is in the minors) — a net of +$0.5 million for the Penguins, who should still have over a million dollars of flexibility to work with.

I don’t have a great feel for Rutherford’s playbook yet, but he told Spector he doesn’t like to wait for the deadline to pull the trigger.  His aggressive moves this year and in prior seasons confirms that.

Evander Kane just seems like his next deal to put the Penguins back in contention for a Stanley Cup.

25 thoughts on “Evander Kane to the Penguins? Examining the Possibilities”

  1. Kane is out for the rest of the season… Nobody will trade for him now.. Mabye on draft day, but trading for that salary when he’s not gonna play, come on.

  2. THEE #1 issue is overall this team is EXTREMELY SOFT. Softer than the teams of the last few years which everyone agreed pretty much, were soft. No top end toughness and low on toughness all ’round. When the toughest guy on your team is 5’10- 185 lb punching bag steve downie, you’ve got problems.

  3. It’s simple on Sutter he is not scoring enough. When your 2 best players aren’t scoring then you need the secondary guys to pick up the slack and Sutter can’t do that. There are a bunch of guys who can kill penalties but the there are guys who do that and score which Sutter is not doing and looking back on the trade with the canes Matta and Pouliot are the only 2 guys benefiting from the trade and J.Staal has floundered in Cane Town. He wanted to prove he could be a top six guy well he hasn’t and he should have known that. Staal was there best 3rd line C and if need be would be No.2 behind Sid or Geno depending on which one of them was hurt. Guys like Spaling and Sutter are just another pair of guys who don’t much if anything at all. There are couple names being tossed around and looked at by the Pens: Jagr and Winnik. Keep a close eye on those 2 being traded to the Pens and the team has said that Sutter is 1 of the guys that they will absolutely deal for a guy like Winnik.

  4. I think Sutter is a very important player on the Pens team. I don’t understand how so many people don’t see his value. The guy is talented and very consistent. He’s not flashy and dominant, but he’s solid and reliable, and has a surprisingly good shot. I wouldn’t trade him. Too many other players on the team who add much less value than Sutter.

  5. If the deal happened the way you’ve construed it, Jim Rustherford would immediately ascend into heaven, and Kevin Cheveldayoff would be burned at a stake.

    In one breath, you say that Kunitz would be the centerpiece of the deal, in another you you remind us of the Penguins’ aging, forgetting that Kunitz is a reason for their aging. If, as you say, you don’t know what’s going on with Kunitz, allow me to reveal to you that he is 35 and has slowed noticeably and naturally.

    And Bennett? He’s broken, battered, and now benched for being benign. If he reminds you of Lupal, you should know that the Leafs would love to get rid of Lupal, but can’t because of his salary and injury history.

    Then, there’s Dumoulin,, who would either be the Jets 10th defenseman or play in the minors

    I’m sorry, because I’m a Pens fan, but I’m sure that other teams have offered more for Kane than an aged winger, a former number 1 draft choice who so far has been a bust, and a defenseman to populate their minor league team’s roster.

    • I should have mentioned, I don’t understand how you could think that Kunitz’s playoff resume is just what the “inexperienced” Jets need. They already have Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien from the Blackhawks cup team. How many resumes are sufficient?

  6. Won’t Happen As The Article Clearly States (And The Author Misses Himself)
    Is That The Pens Are Looking For A Solid Defenseman Too……
    The Deal He Proposes Doesn’t Return A Defenseman And Leaves The Pens
    With Even Less To Obtain One Via Trade….

  7. I get the jist of the article but it won’t happen. Now this no knock on Kane cause there have plenty of times where Pens fans have called for the Pens to deal for Kane but if does get dealt it would be to a team that gives the Jets what they want in return: 1st round pick, solid offensive guy or top notch D-Man which is something the pens can’t do. However there are some rumblings of the Pens making 2 deals: Kunitz out and Jagr is in. I have heard from reliable sources close to the pens that they are considering these deals though nothing is imminent. Kane while he would be great for the Pens is going to be dealt to some other team that give Winnipeg the most and best value in return.

  8. I’m kind of up in the air about this, this looks like a hit or miss kind of deal in my opinion and I believe it’s the “miss” aspect of the deal will hurt the Pens much more then the Jets.. as the article states about Kunitz is 100% correct “The Penguins need to get younger and Kunitz’s Stanley Cup resume is exactly what an inexperienced Jets team needs.” With that being said, Kunitz currently averaging .720 ppg much better producer then Kane with a current .549 ppg but Kane’s stats could significantly change with a chance to play with an elite 2nd liner like Malkin.

    A reasonable trade in my opinion would be (Kunitz / Bennett) –> Kane, with high hopes he meshes well with Malkin.

  9. Kane has tons of potential but that seems steep especially when you mention switching in Despres. Could a deal be moved around with potentially Kane and Thorburn for Kunitz, Sutter and Adam’s? Both teams get a top 6 winger, the Pen’s get a younger one but replace him with a younger guy on a good contract in Sutter who can play C/W in the Peg, You trade 4th liners to the point where Adams brings winning experience to WPG and helps the PK while Pit gets a bigger rougher grinder that also doubles as a way to get Adam’s off their roster some how. $ wise, things are a bit of a wash, WPG takes on a little salary but not much. Pens would have to move Spalling to the middle on the 3rd line which hurts but that’s what happens when you trade Goc for Lappy *head smack*.

  10. Harrington may be a player sometime around 2020; right now he gives up a goal for every 10 minutes on the ice more or less and if a goal has been scored in MOST of the games he’s played in that have been close, he’s been there watching…..and watching….and watching.

    Kunitz and Harrington for Kane doesn’t fill the missing winger problem; it just upgrades the current crop. Harrington for a bag of pucks would do the same.

  11. Very interesting and engaging article. I for one have been on the mindset of “get healthy, and they’ll be fine.” Malkin is back. Comeau will be back soon. Determining how bad the Ehrhoff situation is is one thing to consider as well. I have always been a fan of Kane and would love to see him in a Penguin uniform.

    However, giving up Bennett is a tough call. When he’s healthy, he’s a great third-line player, but if you do give him up, they still have Kasperi Kapanen waiting for his shot. I would not give up Despres for anything. The kid has shown that he can play and play at a high level (besides his horrific game against Nashville).

    If the trade lined up would be Kunitz, Bennett, Dumoulin for Kane, I think I would pull trigger, but not as quickly as some others would.

  12. The problem with the Pens right now is that they don’t have enough forward depth. The deal above would leave them with even fewer quality forwards.

    If you swap out Beau Bennett with Brandon Sutter, then it might work. But given recent personnel moves, I don’t have much hope for a deal that actually improves the team.

  13. There is no way Rutherford trades Despres this year, or any other defensemen in their top sevel without getting another top 6 defenseman in return. Oli Maata’s injury is a significant injury, forcining someone like Bortuzzo to play. Bortuzzo is no better than a 7th defenseman.

  14. LOL, A proven veteran plus two former first round picks, both 23 and one of which is a 6’5″ D-Man, that the Jets could flip or use to open up moving one of their other D-Men for a prospect or roster player. Please as a Jet fan where do we sign. You can have a self absorbed, me me player for that deal anyday.

  15. Giving up Kunitz, Bennett, and Despres for Kane is getting robbed blind. It would be a terrible move and leave the team in a severe deficit in forward depth. But I guess having big names in the top 6 is what will put the Penguins back in contention…just not anywhere near the Cup when the playoffs actually start.

    • The move barely hurts their forward depth. Kunitz has struggled yearly in the playoffs and isn’t getting any younger. He’d be replaced by a player 12 years younger. Sure, they’d lose depth in the way of Bennett, which does hurt to an extent — but he’s injured so frequently that there’s no guarantee they’d be able to count on him for depth anyway. Doumalin is an easily tradeable player, as the Penguins have a healthy pool of defense prospects that won’t all have a place on the NHL squad in the future. Better to deal one of them now, while they still have value, than to let them languish and depreciate in the AHL or on the bottom pairing in the NHL.

      I’m not saying I’m thrilled with Kane as a person, but Kane as a player, to me, is a better answer today and for the net three years than an injury-prone Bennett and an aging/slowing Kunitz — both of whom I like and would be disappointed to see go.

      • I’d trade Kunitz, Sutter (who is an awful 3C but for some reason overvalued by many in the NHL), and Dumoulin/Harrington/pick for Kane. Kane has his own issues and if you are going to claim Bennett is too injury prone, then the same criticism exists for Kane. I’m not confident at all in Kane outproducing Kunitz, who has 24 pts in the last three postseasons (34 games). Not sure how he has “struggled yearly in the playoffs” at all.

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