In the salary-cap era, NHL teams have been forced to make otherwise unpalatable decisions in their efforts to continue optimizing rosters under the heavy pressure of the league’s unbending financial restrictions.
In the last few months alone, the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning were forced to pick and choose between assets to let walk (after apparently asking their captain about his no-movement clause) while Marc-Andre Fleury was ripped from his adopted home in Las Vegas.
But of all the unsavoury decisions executives are forced to make as they feverishly race against their own expiration dates, few will compare to adding Evander Kane on the cheap.
TSN’s Darren Dreger posited on Monday that as many as 20 teams have expressed a level of interest in the endlessly embattled forward, who had his contract terminated by the San Jose Sharks over the weekend for allegedly breaching the terms of his deal by travelling across the border from California to British Columbia while limited under COVID-19 protocol.
Ken Holland asked about Evander Kane: “I believe in second chances.” #Oilers
— Joshua Clipperton (@JClipperton_CP) January 11, 2022
The NHLPA has taken up issue with the decision and is in the process of filing a grievance on behalf of Kane, which is apparently, and unfathomably, the only holdup on the veteran forward’s path to returning to an NHL roster.
We all know the problematic layers to Kane’s story. Before the alleged trip to Vancouver, it was the fake vaccination card. Before it was the fake vaccination card, it was an ugly, allegation-laden split between Kane and his ex-wife, Anna, which forced the NHL to launch two separate investigations. Before those matters were attended to, it was loan-shark debts, bankruptcy court, and a gambling addiction that was putting immense stress on a family.
And before all that, it was a cancerous reputation in locker rooms.
Though Kane’s non-hockey issues are most certainly the most serious, we know those can and will be excused. NHL teams and sports organizations in general have a long and storied history of setting morals aside in the interest of winning.
Sports is where second chances happen — deserved and otherwise.
What’s most surprising about the rush to inquire about Kane is his history of harshly grating at the players and organizations he’s worked with in the past.
Not one active player has a deeper history of committing the cardinal sin in hockey, which is to choose one’s best interests over the team, time and time again.
Kane was basically thrown out of the Winnipeg Jets organization after a long-running spat with teammates reached a boiling point many years — or showers — ago. It’s been reported that his current Sharks teammates were adamant that he wasn’t welcome back this season after his personal issues escalated.
The 30-year-old hasn’t earned the insulation that being part of a hockey team has historically provided, because he continues to operate independently, and problematically, outside of it.
What Kane can offer, and what’s being whispered into the ears of general managers across the league, is cheap production. Kane was a reliable and consistent scorer in his three-plus seasons in San Jose despite all his issues, piling up 87 goals and 166 points in 212 games.
After arguably meeting (or maybe flirting with) the expected value on a contract that paid him $7 million annually, Kane should, in theory, deliver massive value on the bargain-bin deal that’s most appetizing to him through this vast and somewhat dirty courting process.
Even then, this reeks of either desperation, arrogance, naivety, or a nasty elixir of all three, on the part of the many teams expressing interest.
Because to blissfully ignore Kane’s transgressions, and his long list of misplaced priorities and incendiary history inside locker rooms, teams either have no other option but to address their on-ice issues or believe that they are special enough to reform an individual who has shown to be beyond repair — at least in the context of both professionalism in hockey and many others aspects of his life.
Buyer beware. Don’t tell us you weren’t warned.
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