The inevitable happened early Saturday afternoon, when the San Jose Sharks completely severed ties with winger Evander Kane, placing him on unconditional waivers with the intent of terminating his contract.
After Kane was found to be deliberately avoiding the COVID-19 vaccination by giving his employer a fake vaccination card, it was only a matter of time until he was to be jettisoned by a team that can’t find any takers for him on the trade market.
The 30-year-old had 22 goals and 49 points in 56 games with the Sharks last season, solid-enough numbers to justify his salary cap hit of $7 million per year. But there were building tensions in San Jose’s dressing room last season, and Kane was at the center of it.
“He plays with a chip on his shoulder, but that carries into the dressing room and the outside world,” said one NHL agent in August, speaking about Kane on condition his name not be used. “He never does any favors to himself when he lets his ego rule the day, and he does that most days.”
“One of my clients on the Sharks just hates him, hates the negative energy he brings into the room,” a different agent, also asking for anonymity, told THN.com in August. “Some guys think that they’re bigger than the team, and I guess that helps drive (Kane) on a personal basis, but in the team construct, it doesn’t play well at all.”
To be clear, Kane was cleared of serious allegations from his estranged wife of abuse. However, his plot to evade the NHL’s COVID protocols gave the Sharks all the material they needed to get out from under his cap hit and continue their rebuild.
You know Sharks management has tried to trade him. The fact they couldn’t make a deal work is all you need to know about Kane’s reputation at the moment. NHL teams take on reclamation projects all the time, but no other NHL team wanted to be the next guy who takes a chance on Kane and winds up poisoning his group. The next team that does sign him will be the fifth franchise he’s played for in 13 NHL seasons. That’s not a good turnover rate.
Kane started out playing for Atlanta (now Winnipeg), and he lasted six seasons with that franchise. Then he went to Buffalo for two-and-a-half seasons. Then he got moved to San Jose, where he’s spent the past three-and-a-half seasons. The contract the Sharks are in the process of voiding has three years left on it after the current season, and Kane stands to lose more than $22 million. Kane now will have no choice but to accept a steep pay cut and a contract length of one or two years. He’ll have to demonstrate he can be an effective component of a championship contender, and stay out of the spotlight as best he can.
If there’s even a sniff of trouble as a result of bringing Kane on board an NHL team, GMs won’t hesitate to cut him loose. His reputation has hamstrung his career trajectory, and maybe some of that blowback has been unfair. But to continue his way as a journeyman, despite posting at least 20 goals in each of the past six seasons, says something about him. And not something good.
Kane may choose to take his talents to Russia with the Kontinental League now. He’ll certainly get more than one bidder, but his exploits this past year have taken away any real leverage he might’ve had. He has been repentant in a statement, but now he must let his actions speak louder than any words. He has a chance to make a GM glad he took a chance on him at this, the nadir of his professional hockey career.
But it won’t be on his terms. It will be up to him to show he can be a positive influence. If not, we could be looking at the end of his NHL career.