Penguins Have Pieces to Make Evander Kane Trade Work

The Pittsburgh Penguins are one of the many teams that could make an Evander Kane trade work. The San Jose Sharks forward comes with a long list of baggage, but there’s no denying his natural abilities to put the puck in the net. Given the Penguins’ strong leadership core, and the assets likely available for a trade, make no mistake, if Pittsburgh wanted to add Kane to the mix, they could.

Evander Kane - Sharks
Evander Kane is on the trade block for the Sharks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Kane has now served his 21-game suspension for violating COVID-19 protocols during training camp, and he’s on his way to the American Hockey League to get back into game shape. The 30-year-old was placed on waivers on Sunday but is not expected to be picked up by any team because his $7 million annual cap hit is a hefty price to pay for a player with this much hoopla, and after the Sharks confirmed they are willing to retain half of his salary, why would a team pick up the full ticket? 

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At a $3.5 million cap hit, Kane is a steal. He’s a dynamic skater who plays a power game that includes taking the body, scoring key goals, and he can play all over the lineup. Last season, amidst all the headlines, he had a career year and potted 22 goals and 49 points in 56 games. This, after seasons of scoring 26 and 30 goals in shortened campaigns. There’s no denying his talent, and at half the price, it will be more than just the Penguins who give Kane – the former first-round pick – a look.

Penguins Trade Offer Should Start and End With Jason Zucker

Kane at $3.5 million for the next three and a half seasons or Jason Zucker at $5.5 million for the rest of this season and next? It’s an interesting question that comes with a lot of variables, but this is a one-for-one swap that could work for both clubs.

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The Sharks have over $9.7 million in cap space and almost $20 million for next season. They have the financial resources to add Zucker to the books, and they should feel pretty good about themselves if they can turn Kane into Zucker. By all accounts, he’s a beloved teammate – both in Pittsburgh and formerly with the Minnesota Wild – and the fit wouldn’t be an issue. He has a no-trade clause and can submit a list of 10 teams he’s not interested in, but given that he’s from Newport Beach, California, playing for the Sharks in San Jose shouldn’t take much convincing.

Jason Zucker Pittsburgh Penguins
Jason Zucker needs a change of scenery (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Now to the Penguins. They would shed $2 million off their cap for this season and next, which would be tremendously beneficial. Management continues to look for ways to upgrade their club, but it seems like everything comes down to dollars and cents. Adding more financial resources would go a long way to improving the Penguins’ forward depth and backup goaltending, two areas of need, and we haven’t even touched on contract extensions for Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin. Every little bit of extra money will help, and $4 million over two years is a decent chunk to get the ball rolling.

Considering what other teams are expected to offer for Kane, a proven NHL talent like Zucker would get the attention of Sharks management. He has one goal in his last 15 games, and he didn’t have much chemistry with Malkin last season or with Jeff Carter so far this season. He doesn’t fit with the Penguins, and this trade, which would include some risks, could be the change of scenery that benefits both the player and the team.

Listen, I am aware of the risks involved with acquiring Kane from the Sharks. His teammates don’t want him back, and he brings a ton of off-ice baggage. But with the Penguins management team led by the intimidating Ron Hextall and Brian Burke, their coaching staff, and the leadership group on the ice who have championship resumes, this could be the perfect spot for Kane to get his career back on track. He’s also one of the best power forwards in the game, and this trade for Zucker brings short-term financial flexibility to the organization, making it a trade worth considering. Now we wait to see if Burke and Hextall feel the same way.

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