Lots of interest and even more posturing on the Evander Kane trade front

So this may or may not surprise you: lots of teams would love to acquire a 23-year-old power forward who scores 5-on-5 goals at a first-line rate, especially if that 23-year-old power forward who scores 5-on-5 goals at a first-line rate can be had on the cheap.

Though Evander Kane is lost for the season following shoulder surgery, the rumours surrounding his future continue to flow in. There’s a lot of reported interest and even more reported posturing. 

Let’s dig in.

We know that the Jets are still interested in dealing Kane before the NHL trade deadline. This is a headache they’d prefer not to nurse. Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff would prefer to bring on the Advil, especially if he can get a piece that helps him address his forward depth issue and a piece that will help the Jets peak a few years down the line in a return.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said as much during the Headlines segment on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday:

From what I’m hearing about what the Jets want, they want something that can help them now. They’re in the playoff race, they obviously want to get there, they are in the race now and they need a trade – if they’re going to make them – that can help them now.

So there’s two (groups) of teams now. The one group of teams is the group that can’t do anything that helps Winnipeg now because they’re in it to win it. But there’s a whole other group of teams that’s either out of the playoffs or they don’t think they’re going to win, and they can consider this. I think you’ll see teams like Buffalo, Philadelphia, maybe even Ottawa say is there something we can do?

I think the Jets will ask for a lot, but I think you’ll see teams that are out of it this year try to see if they can get it done.”

It may not just be the likes of the Sabres, Flyers, and Senators that look to complete a Kane trade before the March 2nd NHL Trade Deadline. In fact, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, a trio of teams currently in playoff spots – the Washington Capitals, Vancouver Canucks, and Calgary Flames – would all have interest in acquiring Kane sooner rather than later as well. 

The problem? The Flames don’t seem to want to part with Sam Bennett, and the Canucks don’t want to part with Bo Horvat or Jake Virtanen in a potential deal for Kane.

McKenzie summarizes how the vultures are circling around Portage and Main:

So most teams go into this process knowing they need to satisfy the Jets’ needs on two fronts. It will be a balancing act how each of those suitors choose to weight it.

The danger for the Jets is the offers may tend be on the low-ball side because most everyone believes Winnipeg has no choice but to move Kane. Sooner or later, though, the Jets will have no choice but to pull the trigger.

Or so goes the theory. Cheveldayoff will be adamant about holding out until he gets what he feels is a fair or reasonable offer for Kane. He won’t treat this as a fire sale even if others see it that way.

Yes the posturing is as plentiful as the interest. NHL scouts, for example, suggested to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston that the price for Kane is dropping significantly:

Meanwhile the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch quoted a pair of anonymous NHL executives who appeared to be pretty eager to add grist to the “Cheveldayof’s hands are tied” mill.

““He can’t play for them again,” said one anonymous team source. “There’s been too much damage I don’t think he could.”

Another echoed that sentiment:

“He isn’t going to get much in the way of value but it’s likely best for both if the Jets moved on,” added another executive.

Where does this leave Winnipeg? Well it leaves them without a very effective top-six forward, which further compounds their forward depth issues. It also puts them in a bind in that they’re playing Dustin Byfuglien out of position in Kane’s absence, where he’s far less effective.

If the Jets can get a decent offer – a quality future and something useful down the stretch – before the deadline, that would be preferable to allowing this situation to drag out. There does seems to be enough interest in Kane though – despite everything that’s occurred – that Cheveldayoff should have enough leverage to resist making an impatient, inequitable trade. 

It’s eminently clear that Winnipeg has an uphill battle in trying to net fair value for a 23-year-old power forward who scores 5-on-5 goals at a first-line rate, but if there are still four or five teams in the picture then they don’t appear to be entirely up a creek.

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    The great thing about Evander Kane is every time people have said that he can’t play in Winnipeg and he needs to be traded and shouldn’t play another game with the team he shows up to camp and plays like a champ.

    Even if the GM wants to move him he should not be afraid to wait until November to do so. Kane is not going to play badly on purpose and when he plays well, good things will happen to his trade value.