The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of a half dozen NHL clubs with a scout in attendance for the AHL debut of Evander Kane. Kane will suit up for the San Jose Barracuda Saturday against the Abbotsford Canucks.
NHL scouts often have their schedules laid out weeks in advance. So there is not necessarily a connection to be made with Kane playing his first AHL game and the NHL teams that have scouts in attendance. The Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Nashville Predators, and Dallas Stars are the other teams, in addition to the Maple Leafs, with NHL scouts in attendance.
Productive Scoring Winger
On the ice, Kane is coming off one of the best seasons of his career. He led the Sharks with 22 goals and 49 points in 56 games. Kane is a top tier shot generator. He has scored at least 20 goals seven times in his career, hitting 30 goals twice. The 30-year-old winger is 6-foot-2, 210 pounds and most definitely plays with an edge to his game. Kane led the National Hockey League in penalty minutes in both the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 seasons.
But the on-ice value is not remotely the issue when it comes to any team that might have interest in acquiring Evander Kane. He has established that he is a legitimate first-line winger.
However, off-ice problems have plagued Kane throughout his career, first in Winnipeg, then Buffalo, before he landed in San Jose. Matters seemed to blow up this past summer when Kane’s estranged wife leveled many accusations at him over social media. Accusations that included Kane had gambled on and thrown NHL games. Kane has reportedly accrued large gambling debts on his way to filing for bankruptcy. Thus, there is fair concern about whether gambling losses could leave him compromised.
Kane was then suspended 21 games for using a fake COVID-19 vaccination card.
There were also reports that there were Sharks teammates who did not want him back on the team after he had served that suspension. That’s a big red flag when players don’t want their leading scorer back in the room.
Any Kane trade is complicated by the fact that he has three more seasons and a $7 million cap hit remaining on his contract after this season. Even if the Sharks retain half of Kane’s salary, that might be too much for the marketplace. The Sharks could get a third team involved to cut that cap hit in half again. It is possible but that requires motivation and would require using assets to bring that price down. Any team acquiring Kane would have to be prepared for the public relations hit that would surely follow.
If no trade can get worked out for Kane, it is possible that he could end up getting bought out of his contract. He would then become an unrestricted free agent next summer. The Rangers effectively sent defenseman Tony DeAngelo home last season, bought him out of his contract, and he signed a one-year, $1 million contract with Carolina in the offseason.
So, the Toronto Maple Leafs might have a scout taking in Kane’s AHL debut Saturday. However, for a team with limited cap space, Evander Kane does not seem to be a likely trade target for the Maple Leafs.
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