Money talks, sure. But “San Jose ticked off every box,” according to Evander Kane, who just signed a new seven-year, $49 million contract with the club. In linking himself with the franchise long-term, Kane has made himself an integral part of the Sharks and if San Jose wants to hoist the Stanley Cup for the first time ever, the power forward will have to be at his best.
Kane has a well-known past in the NHL, where his outsized personality didn’t always fit in. There have also been legal issues in the past. Since coming to the Sharks from Buffalo at the trade deadline however, Kane was a model teammate and he credits San Jose with welcoming and nurturing him.
“I’ve played for a couple organizations,” Kane said, “and this one, by far, has blown by the rest.”
Naturally, there is risk in signing a player with just one 30 goal campaign to his name to big money, but Kane’s combination of brawn and skill has always been the allure. If anything, untimely injuries have been one of the big factors in stemming his productivity and the Vancouver native’s shooting percentage has been pretty decent in recent times.
Certainly there is risk in inking Kane to a long-term deal when he has soured on other teams in the past, but the key in San Jose seems to have been figured out early: both Kane and coach Peter DeBoer noted that the left winger was allowed to be himself when he came to town; that allowed him to put his head down and work, with positive results. The fact Joe Thornton personally met Kane at the airport after the Buffalo trade got things off on the best foot possible, too. At every step, San Jose has made it clear they like Kane and the $49 million pact is the most concrete proof.
“The feeling is mutual,” Kane said. “It’s good to be wanted and the fact we worked out a deal so quickly reflects that.”
As for the Sharks, they didn’t just fork out a lot of money for Kane; in re-signing him, they also surrender a first-round draft choice in 2019 to Buffalo, which would have only been a second-rounder if he had walked as an unrestricted free agent.
“He’s coming into the prime of his career and I do believe he wants to be a great player,” said GM Doug Wilson. “His goal is to be part of a winning team and because of that mutual goal, I think he’s going to be very successful for us.”
The Sharks appear to be in a transition period right now. Thornton, the bearded stalwart, is once again up for free agency and there’s no way San Jose can retain him unless it’s at a very steep discount. One possible option instead would be John Tavares, should he choose not to stay with the New York Islanders. But Tavares would take up a big chunk of change and with Kane signed, the Sharks don’t have a ton of cap space to work with (especially when you factor in the new contract due to RFA Tomas Hertl).
So not only must Kane earn his paycheck, but it wouldn’t hurt for him to take a bigger role in the dressing room, too. The ball is already rolling on that one.
“One-hundred percent,” DeBoer said. “He was part of our leadership meetings down the stretch and he’ll be a part of that going forward.”
It will be interesting to see now what Kane can do. After playing in the fishbowls of Winnipeg and Buffalo (which are great for some players), Kane believes he's found the right vibe in Northern California, where the fans are passionate, but players can still walk around town without much fuss.
“San Jose has a good fan base and we’re a popular bunch," Kane said. "It’s a happy medium playing and living here.”
Now the mission is to bring a Stanley Cup to San Jose. And Kane has the next seven years to be part of the solution.