The Edmonton Oilers made the right choice in signing Evander Kane when very few other teams wanted to take the risk. He is a very good player and a goal-scoring winger, something the Oilers have not had in years.
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Contrary to the belief that Kane’s great play is making it increasingly difficult for the Oilers to re-sign him, it could be argued that his play is also making it increasingly difficult for the Oilers not to consider doing what they can to re-sign him. This will come with difficult decisions and players departing.
Can’t Complain About Kane’s Production
I know a bit of me is hoping that the production will let off enough so that the Oilers continue to win but Kane’s price tag in the summer doesn’t go up even higher. It seems inevitable that he is going to get better offers from many other teams after seeing how he was able to step in and contribute at such a high rate in Edmonton.
Kane’s presence on the top line beside Connor McDavid and Jesse Puljujarvi has created the perfect blend of talent on a line. It covers everything from forechecking, physicality, puck control, finishing plays, and much more. Kane adds the hard play and sniping ability that McDavid so desperately needed. Over the years, we’ve seen many wingers come through McDavid’s wing and move on because the production just hasn’t been there.
Kane plays the left wing, a spot that Leon Draisaitl has often moved up to over the years. There’s no denying the chemistry between McDavid and Draisaitl, but dangerous teams are able to spread out their scoring. Both centermen can run their own lines, but the wingers haven’t always been up to par with them, so they have had to be put together to create offence. With Kane on the team, we have scarcely seen McDavid and Draisaitl play five-on-five together and the offence has done very well regardless.
Kane has 20 goals in 39 games with the Oilers which is a 42-goal pace over a full 82 games. He has also added 16 assists to put him the closest to a point-per-game as he’s been in his career. He is just one of seven players who have scored at least 20 goals in seven consecutive seasons.
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It’s no coincidence that Kane is shooting at the highest percentage of his career by a wide margin, as he has never had someone with the talent of McDavid to feed him the puck as often and as efficiently. Kane’s offensive production has also come mainly at five-on-five, adding to an area the Oilers have struggled with over the past number of seasons.
Kane Was Just What the Oilers Needed at a Desperate Time
The Oilers signed Kane and he played his first game for the team on Jan. 29, scoring a goal in his season debut. Since then, they are 25-10-4 and have just clinched a playoff spot. He was just what they needed at the lowest point in their season and it has paid off immensely thus far.
Related: 5 Reasons the Oilers Made the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Not only did they need a spark and someone to help pull them out of the depths, but Kane brought with him his physical and aggravating play that fires the team up at times. Every member of the team loves when players make hits, play tough, and score goals. Kane does all three and is constantly around the net. He made an immediate impact scoring in his first game while finishing off the Oilers’ previous game with the fourth hat trick of his career over the powerhouse Colorado Avalanche.
I mentioned above that it was key for the Oilers to stop relying on McDavid and Draisaitl for all of the offence, especially when they had to be put together to create it at even strength. Kane’s presence on the wing deepened the forward group and also allowed Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to slide down to the third line and play his natural centre position. 14 of Kane’s goals this season have come in wins. Not only wins but close games in which his play was integral to the team’s success.
Oilers’ Focus Should be Re-Signing Their 3 Young RFA Forwards
Whether or not to re-sign Kane will be a very tough decision for the Oilers to make this offseason. They have four key forwards and likely only room for three of them. Ryan McLeod is a lock to sign as he will cost the least amount of money and he and the team will likely land on a bridge deal.
Kailer Yamamoto will also cost less and sign for a bridge deal as well, only for more AAV (average annual value). Yamamoto and Mcleod combined won’t eat a huge chunk of the money that should be available with likely offseason moves, but it will take up cap space nonetheless.
The decision seems to be coming down to Jesse Puljujarvi and Kane for the longer-term contract at a higher AAV. The Oilers can get Puljujarvi cheaper than Kane, especially if you look at offensive production. But Puljujarvi has struggled to find the back of the net. The Oilers could possibly sign him to a one or two-year bridge deal for a lower AAV that still leaves him as a restricted free agent at the end and maybe be able to squeeze Kane back with the team if he also agrees to take a bit less money to stay.
The key thing to note about Puljujarvi is that he does good work all over the ice. Jay Woodcroft said “when it comes to offensive production you worry when people aren’t getting the chances, when they’re nowhere near an opportunity to finish. With Jesse I think he does a lot of good complimentary things for other people.” He also spoke on how it’s a different approach to young players who are having a tough time finding the back of the net. He emphasized other aspects of the game you can hang your hat on, but also how to instill confidence and continue being in the right places.
Kane and Puljujarvi play very different games and both bring something that is needed to the Oilers. The problem with choosing Kane over Puljujarvi, if it comes to that decision, is age. Kane’s best years may just be coming to an end as he is 30 years old. Many believe that with the determination and hard work Puljujarvi puts in that his best years are still to come. He has the potential to be a much better all-around player even if he doesn’t become a consistent 30-goal scorer. Although it is difficult to find goalscorers, the Oilers have some potential candidates in the pipeline (from “It’s hard to find comparables for Jesse Puljujarvi, but here’s one”, Edmonton Journal, April 22, 2022).
The Oilers drafted and developed Puljujarvi, Yamamoto, and McLeod, and it would be unwise to let any of them go for a player who has had a trial run of half a season and risk the production tailing off before the next contract is complete. Kane would be a great signing if the Oilers can fit all four of these forwards in under the cap, but for now, I’m more than happy with what he is providing the team this season (from “‘He’s a gamer’: Evander Kane’s banner Oilers performance was fitting. And there could be more”, The Athletic, April 23, 2022). They are playoff-bound and his style of play is perfect for the games ahead.