When the Edmonton Oilers signed Evander Kane to a one-year contract on Jan. 27, there were many questions regarding his future in Oil Country. Will he fit in with Connor McDavid and company? Will he bring his off-ice issues with him? Will he produce points?
With his on-ice production and 18 points in 22 games, it’s safe to say he’s fitting in very well so far. TSN hockey analyst Ryan Rishaug recently spoke about the possibility of Kane returning to the Oilers next season. Although he’s unsure if it’ll happen, he mentioned that both the team and the player were a great fit for each other right now.
The Oilers should still proceed with caution in re-signing Kane because of his previous off-ice issues. When he was with the San Jose Sharks, he played well, signed a big seven-year contract, but the personal drama resurfaced. Rishaug felt if Kane continues to produce, and puts on a good playoff performance (if the Oilers qualify) there will be teams willing to offer him up to a three-year contract. It’s in the Oilers’ best interest to stay away from that length of term. But, If Edmonton can sign Kane to a one or two-year contract between $4-5 million in average annual value (AAV), they should make the necessary moves required to create cap space to bring back the physical winger next season.
Kane is Fitting in Very Well With the Oilers
The power forward has come as advertised. He’s on pace for 67 points in an 82-game season, he hits (57) and isn’t afraid to muck it up after the whistle. He’s also not afraid to shoot the puck, with 72 shots and a plus-12 rating in 22 games. He’s also third among forwards in time on ice, averaging 19:54 minutes per game.
He missed the first 39 games of the season and it’s taken him time to catch up to the pace of the game. Yet, he’s still produced and it seems he’s also recently found his skating legs. He’s spent the majority of the season on either McDavid or Leon Draisaitl’s line and he’s developed the prototypical “power forward” and “playmaker” relationship with his centermen.
With Kane third in ice time among forwards, it appears there’s a trust level between him and head coach Jay Woodcroft. Rishaug talked about Woodcroft using Kane in the final moments of a game with the opposition’s goaltender pulled, because he’s not afraid to shoot. In a recent win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, he shot the puck at the empty net from the Oilers’ zone, just missing wide. Fortunately, Kailer Yamamoto beat out every Lightning player and tucked the puck into the open net. Also, with over a minute left against the Detroit Red Wings on March 15, with the Wings’ goaltender pulled, Kane was out on the ice with the two former Hart Trophy winners, and he buried the puck with just over a minute remaining in the game.
Also, his physicality is an element that’s been severely lacking on an Oilers team that’s been pushed around far too often in the last couple of years. He had a dust-up against the Los Angeles Kings with Brendan Lemieux on Feb. 15. The agitator was getting in Kane’s personal space and the Oilers’ forward replied with a left jab to his face, which was followed by an Academy Award-worthy performance by Lemieux when he dramatically fell to the ice.
On that note, his presence alone is a deterrent. Detroit Red Wings’ forward Sam Gagner was jousting with Kane’s linemate, Yamamoto on March 15. Gagner isn’t an intimidating presence by any stretch of the imagination, but Kane skated over with a “what do you think you’re doing?” demeanor, muttered a few words, and the former Oiler immediately backed off.
What Would a New Contract for Kane Look Like?
Rishaug discussed that a three-year deal would be too lengthy of a term and it’s best to take a cautious approach with Kane. He’s playing excellent hockey, but at the same time, he has the motivation to do so because he’s playing for the rest of his NHL career. He has a reputation for off-ice issues that include multiple allegations against him. Is he a changed person? Maybe. But it’s still way too early to tell and the Oilers don’t want to get stuck with him long-term if his previous problematic behaviour makes a return.
The Oilers need to sign key players — Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi — for next season. They also need to sign a goaltender, with just under $8 million in cap space available. In order to sign Kane, they’ll need to get creative. I recently wrote that the team should try and move Zack Kassian’s contract, worth $3.2 million AAV, to try and free up cap space.
Also, because we’ve seen that Evan Bouchard is able to be effective as the lone defenseman on the Oilers’ first unit power play, that makes Tyson Barrie expendable and I also wrote how his $4.5 million AAV should be moved as well. If general manager Ken Holland is able to offload both Kassian and Barrie, that would free up an additional $7.7 million in cap space to sign Kane and a defensive defenseman.
Related: Oilers’ Kane a Better Fit With Draisaitl Than McDavid
Kane’s previous contract with the Sharks was worth $7 million AAV, and that’s essentially what he is — a $7 million player. However, because of his previous personal baggage, he’ll (hopefully) get nowhere near that figure. Realistically, if the Oilers are able to sign Kane in the ballpark between $4-5 million AAV a season for two years, it’ll still be a bargain if he continues his productive play.
The best-case scenario would be if he signed another one-year deal worth between $2 -3 million with the Oilers. That way, he can gamble on himself by playing a full season with the two former Hart Trophy winners and inflate his stats. It could be one more year to prove to the rest of the NHL that he’s turned his personal life around, he’s on the straight and narrow, and in return, he can cash in on one more lucrative contract before his playing days are over. All in all, Kane is exactly what the Oilers need at the moment, a physical player with a shoot-first mentality. Though, only on a short-term deal.
If you were the Oilers’ GM, would you re-sign Kane? If so, for how much and how long of term? Have your say in the comments below.