Oilers Need to Find a Way to Bring Back Kane

Sportsnet’s Mark Spector was on the “Oilers Now With Bob Stauffer” show, and he and Oilers colour commentator Bob Stauffer recently spoke about Evander Kane and his tenure with the Edmonton Oilers.

The Oilers signed Kane to a “show me” deal on Jan. 27 for one year, prorated to a $2 million cap hit in a full season. Stauffer asked what Kane is going to command in free agency, and Spector responded that he’s back to being a $7 million a year player, which was the figure he was supposed to receive yearly from the San Jose Sharks.

The question was asked if you move players, or do whatever it takes to re-sign him, and Spector responded that he doesn’t know how the team would fit another $7 million player under the cap. He was also adamant that Kane wasn’t going to accept a $5 million AAV contract.

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More importantly, Stauffer mentioned that Kane wouldn’t take a hometown discount (despite Vancouver being his hometown), to stay with the team. He ended his segment by saying, “This has gone so well, it’s going to be almost impossible for Edmonton to keep him.” Yet, the Oilers are off to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in five years. Like him or not, Kane was such an important factor in Edmonton advancing and they need to find a way, within reason, to bring him back next season.

Kane’s Value Continues to Increase in the Playoffs

Kane scored 22 goals and added 17 assists in 43 regular season games, and he’s had a big playoff performance so far. He’s scored seven goals and added an assist in seven playoff games. In Game 3 he scored a hat trick, and in Game 6 when the Oilers were on the brink of elimination, he scored two big goals, including the insurance goal en route to a 4-2 Oilers win over the Los Angeles Kings. He’s currently second in the league in postseason goals behind only Jake Guentzel, but he’s also provided a physical element that was critical in the Oilers series against the Kings, dishing out 32 hits in the series.

Each game he hits, agitates and produces big points, it’s a catch-22 situation. The Oilers need him to continue to play well for a deep playoff run, but at the same time, it increases his value and makes it increasingly harder to sign him, as Stauffer suggested.

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)

When the Oilers brought Kane into the fold, I don’t think anyone, including him, would’ve figured it worked out this well. His combination of size, physicality, and the ability to put the puck in the net is an element that’s been missing in the Oilers’ top six since current Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin provided the toughness and scoring touch in the late 90s. In fact, Kane is the first Oiler to score six or more goals in a playoff series since Guerin did so in the 1998 West Quarterfinal against the Colorado Avalanche. Also, his seven goals in a series are third most in franchise history, behind only Jari Kurri and Mark Messier.

Will Kane return to Edmonton next season? That’s the five, six, or seven million dollar question. Other teams without a doubt have taken notice, and are ready to pull the trigger to offer him a lucrative contract. That said, he’s fit in extremely well with the team and he’s the best winger McDavid has had in his career, other than Leon Draisaitl.

McDavid is in his prime years, and general manager Ken Holland needs to make his best effort to re-sign Kane, who is a legitimate scoring winger. He’s the one-shot scorer that can be the difference maker in a playoff series, like we saw against the Kings. Gone are the days of players like Ty Rattie and Drake Caggiula auditioning to see if they can cut it as a winger for McDavid. The Oilers are in “win now” mode, and they need to give the captain access to the best weapons possible, and Kane is the sniper that is a perfect fit.

The Result of Kane’s Grievance Hearing Could Play a Deciding Factor

Kane filed for bankruptcy last January, and it’s safe to assume that money is a motivating factor for him. But let’s take a look at scenarios that would favour a return to Edmonton. On April 19, the Vancouver, BC native had a grievance hearing in New York over the termination of his contract with the San Jose Sharks. The Hockey Writers’ Jim Parsons wrote an article indicating that the results of the grievance hearing could sway Kane’s decision with re-signing with Edmonton. He described that if Kane is awarded even half of the outstanding contract from the Sharks and spread out over 10 years, that’ll be an extra $1 million per season.

That scenario isn’t out of the question. Parsons also referred to a similar scenario with former NHL player Mike Richards, who successfully received 50% of his outstanding salary spread out over 5 years when the Los Angeles Kings terminated his deal. This could be a possible scenario for Kane; however, there is no conclusion from the grievance hearing yet, as a second meeting is required, with a date not yet known.

If Kane is a $7 million player on the open market and receives any money from the grievance hearing, say in the ballpark of 1.5 – 2 million a year, that would bode extremely well for the Oilers. If he actually enjoys playing in Edmonton and would like to stay and ride shotgun alongside the best player in hockey, an offer of $4-5 million a year from the Oilers wouldn’t seem like an unreasonable offer.

How do they make it work? They’ll have to shed salary in the offseason. The Oilers, who according to Puck Pedia, only have under $9 million in cap space for next season, with notable players in need of new contracts, including Kailer Yamamoto, Jesse Puljujarvi, and Ryan McLeod.

The Hockey Writers’ Rob Couch proposed Zack Kassian and Tyson Barrie as prime trade candidates in the offseason, and can raise their trade value with good playoff performances. Kassian’s had a decent postseason, and he was physical early in the series against the Kings. Barrie was good in the series against the Kings, logging 17:34 time on ice, and tallied three points in seven games, including scoring the game-winning goal in Game 6. If Holland is able to trade these two players in the offseason, that would free up $7.7 million in cap space to sign Kane.

Related: Oilers’ Kane Delivering Peak Performance Despite Off-Ice Distractions

At the same time, no one truly knows how a player feels, and people that follow the team can only speculate. However, it appears, after every goal celebration, and after defeating the Kings in seven games, that Kane is enjoying his time in Edmonton. Also, add in the fact that his family is only an hour plane ride away, and if the Oilers are able to free up cap space, there still might be a chance that he returns next season.

Kane went viral over the internet in Game 6 against the Kings, by flashing seven fingers after scoring an empty net goal, indicating the series is heading back home to Edmonton for Game 7, which the Oilers eventually won. With his high-level of play in the playoffs, that seven could also represent the number of millions a season that he could be looking for on his next contract.

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