With the regular season almost over and all attention focused on the NHL standings, naturally most of the spotlight falls on the fringe teams like Anaheim and Colorado. Additionally, if eyes aren’t fixed on the wild card race, then the rest of the focus is shifted to teams like Boston and Tampa Bay, who are running away with the season. The teams left out of the conversation this time of year, are the ones in a more comfortable spot. The middle of the back teams above a wildcard position. Teams that may not have clinched a playoff spot early, but were never in question to do so.
One of those teams is the San Jose Sharks. The same team of course that had an impressive run to the Cup Final two years ago and then suffered a tough round one defeat to the Edmonton Oilers last season. However the one constant in those two stories is that the team continues to make the playoffs, and another season later, they have done it again. The Sharks sit second in the Pacific and look to face L.A. in the playoffs.
In the home stretch of the San Jose Sharks’ season, the team has proven to be a consistently powerful force, and this is in no small part because of Evander Kane. Kane has been one of the best pickups for a team at this year’s trade deadline. A rental player that has had no problem fitting in, Kane is on track to be a huge contributor for the Sharks in the playoffs. So how big of an impact has he truly had so far and has it been enough for Kane and the Sharks to start thinking ahead to next season?
What “Kane” Before
Before the deadline deal, it’s no secret that Kane and his Buffalo Sabres were having a less than ideal year. However, Kane still had a very productive season in his own right, leaving the Sabres this year with an even 20 goals and 20 assists. Although, Kane was a -14 in that same time frame and the Sabres had a dismal 19 wins on the season.
Even though the Sharks were in a solid spot before adding Kane to their roster, they clearly felt the team could be better. Not only did the Sharks make a move for Kane, but they were also among the teams interested in acquiring Erik Karlsson as well. The Sharks record was 33-21-9 before adding Kane, however, the team had a goal differential of +5, which means that on the whole, the Sharks played a lot of close games up to that point in the season. Close games are fine when you come out on top, but things can just as easily go the other way. So the Sharks making a move to acquire an offensive powerhouse like Kane, to help their goal difference on the offensive side, made perfect sense.
When Kane Joined the Club
So how have Kane and his new team been getting along? Well, the Sharks have won 11 of their 16 games with Kane on their roster and have a goal differential of +19 during that time. The Sharks have also been getting significantly more shots to the net than their counterparts at 535 to 473. Simply just watching a San Jose Sharks game, it’s apparent that Kane has found a fit with his new team and furthermore, his stats speak for themselves. Kane has been a near point per game player. with 14 points in his first 16 contents with the Sharks.
16 games isn’t a lot to look at though, and Kane and the Sharks could just be enjoying a honeymoon phase bound to pass. However, if the Sharks have found a perfect match that significantly helps them in the playoffs, Kane and his new team will have to make some big decisions come free agency.
Looking Beyond the Playoffs
Would Kane re-sign with the Sharks if they continue to work well together throughout the playoffs? Or are there other interested parties that could grab him? His 6-year contract comes to an end this summer and he will be a UFA on July 1st. Vancouver has always been in the conversation as a potential home for Kane, since it is, in fact, his hometown. However the skill level of a team like Vancouver isn’t fair off from Buffalo, and although Vancouver has promising prospects, they don’t have the current landscape of talent like the Sharks have to offer.
So to fully recap the conditions on the first-round 2019 pick in the Evander Kane deal: it is lottery protected, it becomes a 2nd RD pick if Kane does not re-sign with the Sharks; it remains a first round pick if San Jose wins the Cup
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) February 26, 2018
The Sharks would lose a 1st round pick in 2019 if they decide to keep Kane around. However, Kane is fitting in well with the Sharks, and from Evander Kane’s perspective, the team is competing at a level he hasn’t been apart of for a while and that could be very attractive. There are a lot of elements to consider when free agency rolls around.