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In this edition of NHL Talk, Evander Kane could join the Edmonton Oilers, the Philadelphia Flyers are underperforming, the New York Rangers’ impressive season is analyzed, and the New Jersey Devils look to its defensive depth players to step up with Dougie Hamilton and Damon Severson sidelined.
Kane Could Make NHL Return in the Oilers’ Top-Six Forward Group
There has been much speculation over the last few days about the landing destination of unrestricted free agent Kane. The 30-year-old forward is looking for a new place to play after having his contract terminated by the San Jose Sharks for breaking COVID-19 protocols as a member of the American Hockey League’s (AHL) San Jose Barracuda. He has also dealt with gambling issues and was handed a 21-game suspension by the NHL earlier this season for using a fake COVID-19 vaccine card.
Despite his off-ice issues, he’s put together an impressive career with 506 points (264 goals, 242 assists) in 769 career NHL games with the Atlanta Thrashers, Winnipeg Jets, Buffalo Sabres and Sharks. Last season, he tallied 49 points (22 goals, 27 assists) in 56 games with the Sharks.
“It’s a good opportunity,” says THW’s Rob Couch in regards to the Oilers’ potential interest in signing Kane. “[An opportunity like this] doesn’t come very often, to sign someone of that level. It will probably be a one-year [contract] and under two million.”
Oilers general manager Ken Holland has spoken with Kane’s agent, Dan Milstein, and says he believes in second chances. Edmonton superstar Connor McDavid was also questioned on the matter, saying, “the public opinion is obviously something that matters a lot, but we’re here to try to win games.” It seems like the Oilers are content with signing Kane, and a deal could be completed in the coming days.
“He’s been a problem in the locker room in the past, but it also would be a new start. You’ve heard the perspectives of Ken Holland and McDavid, where they’re here to win,” says Couch. “So, if Kane is also there to win and play well, he can get himself back in the league… I think it would work out, and I think they’ll get the deal done.”
Flyers Struggling This Season, Have Worst Goal Differential in Metropolitan Division
The Flyers’ season is not going to plan, sitting nine points out of a wild card spot with a 13-15-7 record. The team is winless in its last five games and has a Metropolitan Division-worst minus-29 goal differential. Playoff hopes are dwindling for the historic franchise looking to return to the postseason after missing last year.
“I do think there’s a slight chance [Flyers can make the playoffs] because Washington’s been iffy as of late,” says Couch. “I think Pittsburgh, Carolina and Rangers are locks. Especially with them all being healthy again. And Islanders could make things interesting with six to eight games in hand on everyone. But it will be difficult. They need new players to step up. And be healthy.”
The Flyers have 47 games remaining in the regular season to turn things around. As Couch discusses, the team will need to step up and fix its themes of underperforming and injured players. There is still time for Philadelphia to salvage its season and return to the postseason this year, but it will take a lot of effort and dedication from the roster to get there.
Rangers Are Tied for Second in NHL, First in Metropolitan Division
The Rangers are having a fantastic season, with a 23-10-4 record in 37 games. Tied for second in the NHL with the Carolina Hurricanes and Nashville Predators, and first in the Metropolitan Division with the Hurricanes, the Rangers are taking massive leaps in its rebuilding process this season. Artemi Panarin (10 goals, 26 assists in 32 games) and Adam Fox (five goals, 31 assists in 37 games) lead the team with 36 points apiece. Igor Shesterkin has held the fort down in net, with a stellar .936 save percentage (SV%) in 21 games. But, the trio of Rangers stars aren’t the only ones contributing.
“The additions of Ryan Reaves and Barclay Goodrow, in particular, have been huge for the Rangers’ depth,” says THW’s Matt Grazel. “[Head coach] Gerrard Gallant coming in, he has experience as a head coach, but doing well in his first year with another team is also impressive.”
Enjoying a highly successful season with some new faces on its roster, the Rangers are soaring in the Metropolitan Division and appear to be a lock for the postseason this year. The team’s depth and star players have major roles in the team’s success.
“Chris Kreider’s season has been really impressive given that he’s in his 10th season and he’s arguably having his best year so far,” says Grazel “He’s been consistently one of the best, if not the best, Rangers goal scorer. And Adam Fox, he he looks even better than he did last year. Coming off a Norris Trophy victory, he didn’t fall into a slump after winning the award.”
Devils Defensemen Need to Step up With Hamilton and Severson Out
The Devils are missing its two top offensive defensemen in Hamilton (broken jaw, COVID-19) and Severson (COVID-19). With Ryan Graves, P.K. Subban, Ty Smith and Jonas Siegenthaler rounding out the team’s core defensive group, they will need to step up in the absence of New Jersey’s star defensemen. While the loss of Hamilton and Severson is frustrating for the Devils, it provides a new opportunity for others to grow their game and confidence.
“If someone takes the lead, whether it be Graves, Siegenthaler, Subban or Smith offensively, then then so be it,” says Grazel. “But I think it should be more of a collective unit.”
The Devils’ next two games are against the New York Islanders and Arizona Coyotes, who sit 27th and 31st in the NHL standings, respectively. New Jersey’s bottom-four defensemen will have a chance to capitalize on their latest opportunity with more ice time and responsibility against a couple of weaker teams.
“Ty Smith has probably the biggest opportunity out of the of the four to take that next step in his young career.”
Thank you for reading this edition of NHL Talk, and make sure to listen to the THW Podcast to hear everything your favourite hockey writers have to say about the hottest topics around the league.
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Tom Pepper is a diehard Montréal Canadiens fan, writing NHL and IIHF content at The Hockey Writers since 2020.