Evander Kane has played his last game for San Jose Sharks.
Sure, the star winger is technically still a member of the team – owed $28 million over the next four years and eligible to return from a 21-game suspension on November 30th. But Kane will never don the teal and white again. Not if the Sharks have anything to say about it.
It's safe to say that hockey has not seen a player as synonymous with scandal as Evander Kane in recent memory.
Kane has been accused of sexual and physical abuse by his estranged wife. He filed for bankruptcy in January of 2021 while facing lawsuits from nine different lenders thanks to his reported $26 million in gambling debts, including a whopping $8.3 million owed to one bank alone. Kane was even accused of betting on his own games, an accusation to which the NHL could not find sufficient evidence to support. But shortly after being cleared, Kane celebrated his exoneration by attempting to submit a fake vaccination card in the hopes of skirting around the NHL's COVID-19 protocols, thereby earning him the suspension he's currently serving.
And that's just from the past 18 months. This iceberg goes way, way deeper.
The fact is, Kane's own teammates don't want him back. They felt that way prior to his most recent scandals becoming public over the summer, with DailyFaceOff's Frank Seravalli reporting in June that multiple members of the Sharks had expressed to management in exit interviews that Kane was not welcome back among them.
Keep in mind, Kane led his team in scoring during the 2021 campaign with 49 points in 56 games. And they want nothing to do with him.
"He put himself in this situation," stated Sharks defender Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
This is a sentiment that seems to be shared by the coaching staff, too. When asked about whether he's going to touch base with Kane prior to his suspension concluding, Sharks coach Bob Boughner responded that he hasn't really thought about it.
"I think it’s a situation where I got enough on the go and I’m in charge of these guys here, my staff, and trying to be prepared and detailed," explained Boughner.
"The rest will sort of take care of itself over time.”
Well, that time is fast approaching. Kane will need a place to play come Nov. 30. The Sharks can't simply ignore him for the next four years, no matter how much they want to.
So, what gives?
Well, a trade is the first and most logical option. But it's far from the easiest, and not solely for the reasons one might think.
Obviously, Kane's trade value is low enough to feel the warmth of the Earth's molten core at the moment. He's a 30-year-old winger with a $7 million cap hit, extensive injury history, and one of the most toxic reputations as a teammate the NHL has ever seen. Even if the Sharks do retain money on Kane, as they've said they're willing to do, no one is going to strap themselves to this rollercoaster for the next four years.
But for argument's sake, though, let's say someone does. Well, Kane can simply refuse to go. The seven-year, $49 million contract he signed back in 2018 includes a modified no-trade clause, forcing the Sharks to request a list of three teams from Kane to which he would be willing to move.
Three teams. Out of 30. That's not very helpful.
So, management moves on to the next option: Buyout.
Buying out the four remaining years of Kane's deal would free the Sharks of his presence, which seems to be the central goal here. But it would also ensure that he stays on their books until 2028. That's six years of dead cap space for a team already squeezed up against the ceiling, breaking down as: $3.667 million in 2022-23, $2.667 million in 2023-24, $4.667 million in 2024-25, and then $1.667 million from 2025-2028.
The Sharks would be solving one problem while sentencing themselves to over a half-decade of another.
From there, the outlook is bleak.
The Sharks can buy some time by sending Kane to the AHL upon his reinstatement for a conditioning stint. But those only last five games. Slotting him back on the active roster would leave San Jose with $382,732 in cap space, while demoting him to the AHL for good would save just $1.075 million and still leave the Sharks with nearly $6 million in dead cap for the next four years.
And even then, it's fair to wonder if the Sharks would want Kane to be around their young prospects on the farm.
Case in point: They can't win.
Every single option the Sharks have to potentially rid themselves of Kane carries a hefty asterisk, ranging from mildly inconvenient to franchise-crippling for years to come. There's no escape. And aside from mutual contract termination, which can't be attractive to a guy $26 million in debt, this is the bed the Sharks must lie in.
Doug Wilson is not exactly in an enviable position right now.