As the San Jose Sharks look to snap their two-year playoff drought in the upcoming 2021-22 season, the organization will also have to decide what to do about Evander Kane—the team’s leading goal scorer last season. And the decision will almost certainly make a huge impact on the club moving forward.
Aside from the off-ice noise (i.e. bankruptcy scandal) that has been surrounding the Vancouverite, Kane has garnered a reputation around the league as someone who creates division in the locker room. The last thing the Sharks need is any member of the team creating an environment that makes it more difficult to succeed than it already is. With this in mind, I think it’s important to consider why the Sharks moving Kane out of San Jose is the best move.
Team Unity More Important Than Individual Performance
This should go without saying, but it’s always better to build a team that gets along. It doesn’t matter how good a player is. If a given player is creating division and fanning the flames of an already tense situation, there’s no good reason to keep them in the lineup. Hockey is a team game.
NHL players already have their hands full, with a grueling, 82-game (regular) season, balancing work and family, and any auxiliary situation that arises in their life. The last thing any player needs is to show up to the locker room, only to be met with negativity.
It’s just not a recipe for success.
But this appears to be what Kane has brought to San Jose. And San Jose isn’t the only team that has communicated a divisive attitude from the Canadian forward. The Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets and Buffalo Sabres appear to have had problems with Kane, too (From “Inside the NHL: Final words on the complex Evander Kane puzzle”, The Buffalo News, 3/2/2018). From an undisciplined attitude on the ice to being a loose cannon on social media, Kane has had a tough time winning over the total support of his team and fans alike.
However, this isn’t to take away from the success Kane has had in the league. He has scored 20 plus goals in eight of his 12 seasons in the league. He has been an offensive force, and someone clubs come to rely on to keep them in the game. But the peripheral cost of having a player like Kane in the lineup is not worth it, and it’s certainly not a healthy move for the club long-term.
It was reported that general manager Doug Wilson was going to have his hands full this offseason, concerning Kane’s contract and the potential of seeing him leave the Bay Area.
“Sources indicate significant friction built up between Kane and a number of his teammates last season, frustration that was expressed clearly to management in exit interviews. The trouble is Kane is also coming off the best season of his career: 32 goal and 40 assist pace over an 82-game season. He is one of the best at his position with a relentless forechecking style – and he’s signed to a contract that is commensurate with that production. We’ll see where this goes.”
Wilson is definitely going to have a difficult decision to make. Kane still has four more years on his seven-year contract, worth $22 million. This kind of money and Kane’s negative reputation is going to be a tough sell for virtually any other team in the league. And to top it off, Kane doesn’t have a squeaky clean history. In February of 2020, he was suspended three games for elbowing Winnipeg Jets’ Neal Pionk.
Needless to say, Kane has a ton of baggage he’s going to be dragging behind him should another organization take a chance on him.
We cannot forget about Kane’s bankruptcy issue either. Any team that entertains the possibility of bringing on the turbulent forward will also have to passively accept the possibility that there will likely be additional noise concerning Kane’s bankruptcy debacle.
While it’s relatively unimportant to go into the details of Kane’s personal financial situation, it’s important to consider what kind of impact that would have on a potential team that decides to engage in a trade with San Jose. (From “Sharks’ Evander Kane hit with $15 million lawsuit from bank”, Mercury News, 5/5/2021) General managers across the league will have to weigh how their players are going to respond to someone like Kane. It’s not just about Kane’s ability to score goals. The chemistry has to be there too.
Wilson is certainly going to have his hands full, and all of us Sharks fans will have to sit back, biting our knuckle, hoping that this situation gets resolved, one way or another. The club is likely not a Stanley Cup contender—and perhaps won’t be for another couple of years. If there’s a time to start cleaning house, so to speak, now is the time.
When it comes to moving Kane, Wilson has to consider every single possibility. With a team that looks, more and more each day, as if they are going to enter a quasi-rebuild stage, it’s not a life or death situation to keep Kane on the roster. The Canadian forward has ruffled too many feathers for too long for the Sharks organization to allow division and frustration to resonate through the locker room.
Kane had a chance to make things right after the Atlanta/Winnipeg and Buffalo scuffles, but it’s clear that he has no intention of adjusting. The Sharks need to move him out any way they can, allowing space for other talent that will have a positive impact on the club.
As with many young kids who grow up in the Midwest, CG played a lot of hockey. His love and appreciation for the game is why he’s here, writing for The Hockey Writers, covering his two favorite teams: Montreal Canadiens and San Jose Sharks. But he writes other things, too, including a debut novel that is set to come out in July of 2021. You can find him on Twitter @TheLastSisyphus.