Oilers Adding Kane was NHL’s Best Mid-Season Acquisition in 2021-22

General manager Ken Holland had an underrated year for the Edmonton Oilers and should be given credit where credit is due. Many teams have to pay for and sacrifice a lot to acquire a player like Evander Kane, but the Oilers got themselves the best players moved this season.

Kane’s Addition Came at the Most Needed Time

Kane played his first game for the Oilers on Jan. 29, three games after the team had snapped a horrible stretch run where they went 2-11-2. It came against the Montreal Canadiens, in which he, of course, scored in his first game. He may not have been the reason why the Oilers got out of their slump, but he was definitely a huge part of why they sustained the success once they started getting wins.

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The signing has also had playoff implications. This team was swept last season and only won one postseason game over the past two seasons. They didn’t have the depth up front and players to put the puck in the back of the net after Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The Oilers couldn’t afford to first miss the playoffs and, second, lose in the first round again. Kane has helped prevent that and give hope to an organization dying for it.

Cost Was Incredible to Bring in Kane

It is almost unheard of to get the chance to sign a seven-time 20-goal scorer and two-time 30-goal scorer at a price tag of just $2.1 million while still in his prime. The situation played out perfectly for the Oilers, and they got their big mid-season acquisition for very cheap, very early compared to other teams that were adding players for their run.

Evander Kane Edmonton Oilers
Evander Kane, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It cost the Oilers a small cap hit when that was all they could afford. Plus, it didn’t cost them anything to sign Kane, as they didn’t have to trade for him. The Oilers’ prospect pool is still deep and very good while they kept the remaining picks to use on deadline acquisitions.

Kane was by far the most productive mid-season pickup of any team, with 22 goals since the Oilers brought him in. Sure, some teams were able to get their trading partners to retain salary on key additions, but at an even greater cost.

Kane Has Been Utilized Perfectly

Seven of Kane’s first eight games with the Oilers only saw him play over 20 minutes once. It allowed him to gradually get up to speed to the point that he now has 32 goals and 52 points in 53 games, combining the regular season and playoffs.

Since Jay Woodcroft took over as head coach, the second power-play unit has been given a lot more time. Playing Kane mostly on the second unit makes it much more dangerous and gives both units a shooter. Most of his production has come at five-on-five, which the Oilers also vastly improved on during the season. They counted on their power play to win games at the start of the season, and it delivered. But once that dried up a bit, Kane’s deadly shot, scoring touch, and physical play were what both McDavid and Draisaitl needed on their wings.

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Once the Oilers were on the ropes and games were a must-win in the playoffs, the line of McDavid, Draisaitl, and Kane has not disappointed. Kane plays a physical game and is the perfect fit for playoff hockey, especially in the Battle of Alberta.

Future Implications of Taking a Chance on Kane

The Oilers were one of the only teams to take a chance on Kane, so he developed trust and confidence in the organization from the start. He may have not been a highly sought-after free agent once his contract was terminated by the San Jose Sharks, but he most definitely is now. By taking a chance on Kane despite all his problems, Edmonton should have the upper hand going into the offseason if they want to bring him back.

Kane continues to elevate his stock with his third hat trick since joining the Oilers, nearly a point per game in the regular season, and 10 goals in 10 playoff games. He has two playoff hat tricks and scored a natural hat trick in one period against the Calgary Flames in the first playoff Battle of Alberta in Edmonton since 1991.

Connor McDavid Evander Kane Edmonton Oilers
Connor McDavid and Evander Kane of the Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Kane has shown the ability to finish on McDavid’s wing, which is one of the most important roles on the Oilers. For years, the team has been searching for the right-winger who can put the puck in the back of the net and be in the right position to score alongside McDavid. He doesn’t have to be as fast as him since few are, but McDavid plays a ton and will set up his linemates many times a game. Kane wouldn’t be having the goal-scoring season he is if it weren’t for McDavid, but he is a legitimate goal-scorer nonetheless. Having Kane on the team pushes other forwards down and betters the depth upfront.

Kane is going to get a ton of big offers from other teams in free agency, but he has formed a connection with the Oilers and the players. Both McDavid and Draisaitl reached out to Kane before he made the decision to sign anywhere and told him they wanted him in Edmonton. Both the treatment, production, and prospect of being able to have a good shot at winning the Stanley Cup every season with the superstars on the Oilers, could sway Kane to take less money to stay, win, be appreciated, and be loved.

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