Evander Kane was a no-show for the Winnipeg Jets' game against the Vancouver Canucks because of an incident with teammates earlier that day. Scott Burnside and Craig Custance debate what Kane's value is on the trade market.
BURNSIDE: Well, my friend, things are about to get a whole bunch stickier for mercurial Jets forward Evander Kane and team management. Head coach Paul Maurice told reporters this week that Kane was a healthy scratch for a game against the Canucks, but it was reported Thursday that Kane missed the game because of the results of him showing up for a team meeting in a tracksuit, which was contrary to team rules. Teammates, including Dustin Byfuglien, were upset and the tracksuit ended up in the shower. Kane wasn't on the team bus to the rink for the game later that day, and the team decided he would not play against the Canucks, a source told ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun. Kane was on his way to the rink when he learned he would not play, so he returned to the hotel, according to the source.
Might have been better for the team to come clean on the details earlier, but the bottom line is we know Kane -- whose name has come up repeatedly in trade rumors the past couple of seasons -- is fully in play. But in spite of Kane's having talent that suggests 35- to 40-goal potential in the right circumstances, the question seems to be: What circumstances are right for Kane? And what kind of value does Kane have as we head into the trade deadline period? The situation now looms as general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff's defining moment. It appears he must trade the player and, with his team reeling but still in a playoff spot, he must get something of value back.
CUSTANCE: Despite all these issues and some of the stories surfacing, I still see a strong market for Kane. In reaching out to general managers Thursday, I got the sense that there is a willingness to take on some risk in return for a player who could be a 40-goal scorer. To me, it's a supply-and-demand issue, and it's not often we see high-end players become available at 23 years old. You trade for Evander Kane now, you're getting his best years -- at least in theory. He's a different player, but it has the potential to be similar to a Tyler Seguin situation for a team that trades for him. He's a player who has been banged up this season, has put in time on the third line and really hasn't gotten going. But I got no sense that his struggles this season are scaring off too many potential suitors. Regardless, it sure looks like it's beyond time for a change to all involved in this situation. You?
BURNSIDE: When something like this happens, nothing is simple. For instance, Kane has been battling through a series of injuries this season. Does that preclude him from going to a playoff team? In general, top assets are easier to move at the draft (we saw this with Ryan Kesler last season, when his name came up at the trade deadline but he ended up going to the Anaheim Ducks at the draft), which bigger picture probably suits the Jets more. Wait to move Kane and presumably there is a bigger marketplace and a chance to recoup more assets. But is there a way for Kane, if he remains in the lineup, to be a productive, effective member of the Jets at a time when the Jets are desperate to stay in the hunt? Remember -- and I know you do, Craig, because you were there -- this is a franchise that has never won a single playoff game and appeared in just one playoff series during its time in Atlanta.
It’s clear that Kane has a lot of growing up to do. Remember in September, when Blake Wheeler told us that all of the leadership group, including Kane, needed to step forward and do more? Kane seemed to take offense to that. There have been repeated stories about his behavior and being at odds with fans and others in Winnipeg. Is he being picked on, singled out? And so Cheveldayoff and Maurice must weigh all sorts of factors in deciding which direction to go. Let's assume, then, that Kane has to go -- do you have a sense of where a good landing point might be for him? It's believed the Philadelphia Flyers were interested at one point. What about the Pittsburgh Penguins? Kane might look good flanking a guy named Sidney Crosby. One thing, for sure, my friend, this story is far from being fully told.
CUSTANCE: The injury is another wild card, as is his salary, which comes with a cap hit of $5.25 million through 2017-18. I think Pittsburgh would most definitely be interested if the Penguins are convinced the off-ice issues aren't too concerning. But in that case, it would have to be a dollar-for-dollar deal to pull it off, which is a challenge in midseason. And you're exactly right, the Jets are a team that needs to get in the playoffs at some point. Maybe trading Kane is the best way to do that in the short term. If his injury scares off contending teams, the better move might be to trade him to a rebuilding team that isn't necessarily trying to win games right now. Buffalo could trade a couple of pieces that might help the Jets in the short and long term, while adding a young power forward to the Sabres' core group of young talent. And if Kane is banged up, all the better for the Connor McDavid sweepstakes. This is going to be a fascinating story to follow on a lot of levels as the trade deadline closes in. I don't envy Cheveldayoff because the team that deals a talented young player often ends up on the wrong side of the trade. That's a reality he might have to deal with.