NHL GMs: Don’t Hesitate to Trade for Evander Kane

Evander Kane

It is baffling to me why the Winnipeg Jets would try to run Evander Kane out of town.

The Kane-Jets saga has been a messy  one for some time now. He feuded with erstwhile Winnipeg bench boss Claude Noel, then when Paul Maurice took over midseason during 2013-14, Kane was a healthy scratch in April. Maurice lambasted Kane publicly, leaving speculation that the young winger would be dealt this offseason.

If you’ve missed the recent news, the Jets have lost five straight, and head coach Paul Maurice scratched Kane on Tuesday night in Vancouver – his home town, by the way – for a violation of team rules, which reportedly ended up being a dress-code violation.

Then this bomb dropped Thursday.

I understand Winnipeg – Canada’s smallest NHL market with a rabid, blue-collar fan base – doesn’t appreciate a rich kid from British Columbia slacking off and breaking the rules. There’s no excuse for cutting a game if you’re a professional.

Still, teams leak news to insiders like Chris Johnston to win public-relations wars. The New York Rangers did so last season when Ryan Callahan‘s contract demands went crazy, and like Callahan, the season will end with Kane in a different sweater.

But cut Kane some slack here. First off, he’s 23 years old. I don’t want to tell you the things I was doing as a 23-year-old, and I wasn’t making $6 million per year. Sure, some of the things the forward has done are dumb – this picture, for instance – but a lot of NHLers do dumb things. In fact, Evander Kane might not even be the wildest Kane in the  NHL.

Kane has been injured – one report had him out for roughly six weeks with a lower-body injury – yet he willed his way back into the Jets’ lineup in about half the time. He’s played all facets of the game for some time now and has been up-and-down Winnipeg’s lineup – going from top-line left wing to its No. 3 line – and hasn’t said boo about it.

That sounds like a selfish, me-first player with a horrible attitude?

The New York Islanders traded a conditional No. 1 draft pick and Matt MoulsonJohn Tavares‘ roommate and best friend – for Thomas Vanek last year. Vanek was a 29-year-old, pending-UFA, who basically just scores goals. Evander Kane is 23, under contract through 2017 and kills penalties, plays power play, and is essentially Rick Nash Lite.

But the narrative was Vanek’s attitude was good – even if he was a relative no-show last postseason with Montreal and was the first player off the ice when the Canadiens were eliminated in last season’s Eastern Conference finals. Yet, both the Isles and Habs took a chance on him – gave up pieces for him AS A RENTAL – before he signed for big bucks in Minnesota.

So do you see why I’m a little confused why any team wouldn’t want to trade a similar haul – or even slightly more – for Evander Kane?

Kane seems like a smart, affable, and outgoing guy. He seems like the kind of player, and person, the Islanders could market next season in Brooklyn; or a prodigal hometown hero in Vancouver. Or in several other NHL markets throughout this continent.

I appreciate there are concerns about his health – and those are legitimate, as his games-played and production have dipped substantially over the last three seasons. Though his usage is also a cause of that production dip – according to war-on-ice.com, his five-on-five, offensive-zone starts have dipped every year from about 58 percent in 2011-12, when he scored those 30 goals, to less than 47 percent – as Maurice has clearly tried to make him more of a two-way player.

But if you put Kane on an offensive team with a strong No. 1 center-wing pairing – Dave Lozo of Bleacher Report posited Anaheim, I like the Islanders example – you allow him to be who he is; which let’s face it, is the root of this whole problem in Winnipeg.

The Boston Bruins tried to change Tyler Seguin to a responsible person and two-way player. When Seguin didn’t want to, they traded him. There are a lot of similarities between Seguin and both Patrick and Evander Kane – they’re all young, exciting, former top-five picks who enjoy the spoils of being young, elite athletes.

Where have Seguin and Patrick Kane found success? When teams let them “do them” and play. Not surprisingly, Seguin led the Stars to the playoffs last season and is having an MVP-type season to keep Dallas in the hunt this year. We all know what Patrick Kane is capable of offensively. Neither has deterred his team from winning.

Yet, Winnipeg wants Evander to fit its round peg in the square hole. When management offloads him, the columnists will crow that old-time hockey and discipline has won the day.

But remember, Marian Gaborik was deemed an oft-injured malcontent until he was dealt in LA last year, and all he did was score goals and help the Kings win the Stanley Cup.

Assuming he shows up, it sure feels like Evander Kane could do the same.

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Pat Pickens
Pat Pickens covers the NHL for the New York Times, NHL.com and XN Sports.

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