Before the month of November is over, Evander Kane will be an active NHL player once more. The controversial star is set to return from a 21-game suspension in nine days, as the San Jose Sharks play game No. 22 on November 30. But will Kane actually be back with the team and in the lineup at that time?
The Sharks have had nearly two months to ponder this question, but seem no closer to making a decision on Kane’s future. Curtis Pashelka of The San Jose Mercury News caught up with Sharks head coach Bob Boughner recently and received the same non-answer that he and GM Doug Wilson have continued to provide throughout the saga: “I don’t have any information… There are decisions that need to be made.”
Kane has been the center of attention in San Jose for over a year now, and surprisingly little of it is due to the actual cause of his suspension. Dating back to last year, Kane has filed for bankruptcy, been sued by his creditors, used the threat of a potential contract termination by the Sharks as a tool in his bankruptcy proceedings, faced allegations of betting on hockey and a full NHL investigation, as well as other unsavory allegations from his estranged wife, and battled rumors that many of his teammates were unhappy having him in the locker room. Yet, it was his use of a fake Coronavirus vaccination card to circumvent the NHL COVID Protocol that finally led to discipline.
Amidst all of the drama of the last year, Kane was also the Sharks leading scorer and set a personal career high in per-game production. After getting off to a solid 7-4-1 start without Kane this season, San Jose has lost four of their past five games as their offense has dried up. There is no question that the team could use Kane’s scoring ability, not to mention his physicality. The fact of the matter is that they also still owe him a considerable amount of money to provide this on-ice value for three more seasons beyond this year as well. The question that Wilson and Boughner must answer then is whether the off-ice concerns outweigh the on-ice benefits and, if so, what to do about it.
If the team believes that they can re-introduce Kane to the team without creating issues amongst both their locker room and their fan base, then the power forward may actually be back in the lineup come November 30. However, if Kane has simply become too polarizing, the Sharks will have to get creative in order to move him. Any potential trade interest, however unlikely, will be nowhere near market value for the talented scorer, but San Jose could jump at the first offer. They could also place Kane on waivers and see if anyone bites. Should Kane go unclaimed, he could be reassigned to the AHL and dealt with in the off-season similar to how the New York Rangers handled Anthony DeAngelo last year. However, as the Sharks and Barracuda share a building, it may not have the same impact. The Sharks could even just pay Kane to stay home, again kicking the can down the road. San Jose is in the unenviable position of both re-tooling and being strapped for cap space, so Wilson and company will do all they can to avoid an expensive buyout, which would be the last, worst case scenario option.
Whatever the decision on Kane, it needs to be made soon. The Sharks are on the clock to make a call that – one way or another – will have a substantial impact on their season and quite possibly the future of the organization.