Another month, another rash of Evander Kane trade speculation. The 22-year-old winger's recent comments during a radio interview once again raised questions over his future with the Winnipeg Jets.
“Well, I think I'm a Winnipeg Jet now,” Kane told Vancouver's The Team 1020, acknowledging the trade rumors dogging him since arriving in Winnipeg three years ago. He added “we'll see what happens” and he'll carry on “as if I'm a Winnipeg Jet.”
Despite having four years at an annual cap hit of $5.25 million remaining on his contract, Kane appears doubtful he'll remain with the club for the duration. It's the second time in as many months he's raised eyebrows over his status with the team. Prior to last month's NHL draft, the Winnipeg Sun's Ken Wiebe reported Kane favorited a tweet by a Flyers fan calling upon his team to acquire the young winger.
Even before Kane's latest remarks, ESPN's Craig Custance listed the winger among four players who could be traded this summer. His colleague Tim Kavanagh put Kane at the top of his listing of top-six wingers who could become trade targets.
Sportsnet's Ryan Dixon believes Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff could be reluctant to part with Kane but feels the relationship is reaching the breaking point, making a trade a foregone conclusion. Dixon suggests Kevin Cheveldayoff try to get the best deal he can, just as the Vancouver Canucks did with Ryan Kesler and the Ottawa Senators with Jason Spezza earlier this summer. Dixon also notes Kane's youth and lack of any movement clause provides the Jets with better trade options than the Canucks and Senators faced with Kesler and Spezza.
While the Jets have a broader range of trade destinations with Kane if they put him on the market, there's no guarantee they'll find a suitable return. After missing the playoffs the past three years, Cheveldayoff could prefer a return that helps his club immediately. Offers of draft picks and prospects won't suffice.
Finding the right fit could also be an issue. Most teams have already invested the bulk of their payrolls into their rosters for 2014-15 and could wait until training camp in September to determine if further moves are needed before the season begins. Tempting as Kane will be, finding room for his $5.25- million cap hit could prove difficult.
The Flyers, for example, currently sit $3 million above the $69-million cap ceiling, and are trying to find takers for aging center Vincent Lecavalier and his $4.5-million annual cap hit. The Jets won't have any interest in Lecavalier and could instead seek younger Flyers forwards like Sean Couturier, Jakub Voracek or Wayne Simmonds as part of the return.
The Sun Sentinel's Harvey Fialkov reports Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon is shopping around for a sniper. Tallon has sufficient cap space to absorb Kane's contract. Last month he told Fialkov's colleague Dave Hyde he could package “some of his youth” in a deal, noting the Panthers have “12 kids over 6-foot-3 in our system.” Cheveldayoff could prefer established young Panthers like Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov or Nick Bjugstad.
NESN's Nicholas Goss believes Kane's “power forward style of play” would make him a good fit with the Boston Bruins, but they have limited cap space and restricted free agents like Reilly Smith and Torey Krug to re-sign. Cheveldayoff's conservative nature prompted Goss to suggest Kane could start the season with the Jets.
At this stage, it might be worthwhile for the Jets to remain patient with Kane and evaluate his performance during the season. Should they continue to struggle in their quest for a playoff berth, it would justify moving Kane as part of a roster shakeup. A strong performance on his part will enhance his trade value, especially from other clubs facing early-season difficulties of their own.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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