The Edmonton Oilers made a big splash when they announced the signing of castaway forward Evander Kane for the remainder of the 2021-22 season. General manager Ken Holland opted to ink the former San Jose Shark despite the controversy surrounding Kane and his on and off ice issues.
The deal is somewhat low-risk considering the minimal term attached and could pay big dividends if Kane can produce at the same rate he did a year ago. The Oilers find themselves on a three-game win streak when the signing was made official, and Kane is expected to make his Oiler debut against the Montreal Canadiens.
There are definitely reservations when bringing in such a polarizing player into the locker room, especially when the acquisition is made mid-season with little time to adjust. The other issue is how good will he perform considering Kane was limited to only five professional hockey games so far this year, all coming in the American Hockey League with the San Jose Barracuda. Despite the negative aura and outlook around him, there is an opportunity for him to be a significant addition and make a positive impact in several areas for an Oilers team that is desperate to clinch a playoff berth by season’s end.
Connor Mcdavid Gets Legit Winger
The Oilers made many attempts to find a winger that is capable to play on Connor McDavids’ wing and have been unsuccessful. They even brought Zach Hyman over in the offseason to try and fill the void and although that combination is effective at times, it still lacks the high-end skill and scoring threat a top-line should bring. The Kane signing finally gives McDavid an elite winger and one that has the tools to play with a franchise superstar.
Kane led an underwhelming San Jose Sharks team last season in all major offensive categories including goals (22), assists (27), and points (49). He scored 20+ goals seven times in his career, and playing with an elite passer like McDavid should mesh well with Kane’s goal-scoring ability.
Aside from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl, McDavid oftentimes does not play with a winger that can play and think the game at the same speed he can. Kane’s history of playing with elite-level players on the top lines and against the opposing teams’ best defense pairs should allow him to make a seamless transition back onto the ice and contribute immediately on offense.
Kane Brings Physicality and Toughness
Not only does Kane provide the Oilers with a legitimate scoring option that will bolster an already potent top-six forward group, but he also brings a physical presence on the ice. The Oilers have lacked a physical presence since the departures of Juhjar Khaira and Adam Larsson and the injury to Josh Archibald, who were each top three on the team in the hits category in the 2020-21 season. He is known to be a strong powerful player who is able to forecheck and use his large frame to his advantage. It is rare to find a power forward with the scoring ability Kane possesses, which makes him a very unique addition that does not become available to teams often.
In his 12 year NHL career, he managed to amass 1704 hits, only finishing with less than 97 hits in a full season one time in his career. The Oilers do not have much physicality in their lineup besides Zack Kassian, and Kane provides size, bite, and physicality while also not shying away from dropping his gloves from time to time. The physical aspect of his game provides versatility in the forward group that is otherwise relatively small and not known to be as physical or tough, which will make Kane an even better fit in this lineup.
Oilers Improve Lineup Versatility and Depth
Perhaps the biggest thing the Kane signing provides the Oilers is the ability to manipulate their lines with several different combinations while simultaneously creating forward depth. The addition will see Kane inserted somewhere in the team’s top-six forward group and pushes other players who were forced to play higher in the lineup down to more suitable roles in terms of time on ice and their skillsets.
Adding Evander Kane allows Head Coach Dave Tippett to move a player like Hyman lower in the lineup to become a forechecker and puck retriever on the teams’ second line and help get the puck on Draisaitl’s stick to create offense more often. The Oilers can also opt to put Kane on the team’s second line to provide a premier playmaker like Draisaitl a high-end finisher who can find the back of the net.
By inserting Kane in the top-six, Ryan Nugent Hopkins can now be slotted lower in the lineup to center the teams’ third line which improves the team’s depth even further. Instead of being a secondary piece on a line when playing with Connor and Leon, Nugent-Hopkins becomes a catalyst who can take advantage of good defensive matchups or become the team’s go-to shutdown line against the opposing team’s best lines.
With Kane entering the fold, the Oilers will also get another weapon to add to their power-play arsenal. This addition allows Tippett the opportunity to split the offensive firepower more evenly between the two power-play units and create friendly internal competition for power-play ice time.
Proves Holland’s Faith in Current Roster
Despite the storylines following Kane’s past, Holland thought this addition could improve the current roster and help them in their push to get back into a playoff spot in the Pacific Division. Holland made it known that this is his roster construction and took some blame for the team’s poor play through the month of January.
Having a strong leadership group that would be able to handle a player with the personality Kane embodies, likely played a large role in making the move happen. McDavid also expressed his trust in his general manager and team in an interview prior to the Oilers making the Kane signing official.
“I think it’s important that we acknowledge that there have been some issues. But he’s coming in and we trust Kenny [Ken Holland, the Oilers general manager], we trust the leadership and the group. We have some older guys that don’t wear letters that are a huge piece of that room. We think he can come in and help us on the ice.”Connor McDavid
Holland already expressed his belief in the team to turn the season around amidst their most recent eight-game losing streak and doubled down on that statement by adding a player like Kane into the mix. This move should provide the players on the team confidence and reassure them of the faith that their general manager has in them this season. The team should see this as a boost of confidence from management and bring them comradery and unity in each other to continue to work hard and force Holland’s hand to bring in more reinforcements closer to the trade deadline.
Kane’s Rewards Outweigh the Risk
Despite this being a highly debated and controversial signing, not all fans may be on board because of their beliefs and perspectives regarding his off-ice issues. However, because the contract will come off the Oilers’ books at the end of this season, the deal is low risk and the upside Kane can provide the Oilers in terms of offensive production, lineup depth and confidence from the team perspective the rewards have the potential to be significant and could alter the teams’ rest of season outlook for the better.
I am a graduate of Seneca Colleges Civil Engineering Technology Program and have turned my obsession for sports into a lifestyle. I have been covering the Edmonton Oilers here on The Hockey Writers since 2019. I love fantasy sports, collecting sports memorabilia and listening to classic rock with a cold one or a coffee in my hand.