The Sharks traded Danny O’Regan, a conditional 2019 first-round pick, and a conditional 2019 fourth-round pick to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for winger Evander Kane.
Let’s break down exactly what this means for the Sharks moving forward.
The 2019 fourth-round pick is ideal: there’s plenty of time to recoup that loss, and if Doug Wilson can’t get one back, losing a fourth-rounder is hardly the end of the world. They also have the option to keep that fourth-rounder, but if they do, the Sabres will get their 2020 third-round pick, giving Wilson flexibility to address the organization’s needs.
The 2019 first-round pick only becomes a first-round pick should Kane sign an extension with the Sharks. If Kane is purely a rental, the first becomes a second.
That condition makes this trade damn near perfect. A first-round pick for a bonafide top-six winger long-term is exactly what you’d expect. A second-round pick for a rental top-six winger still isn’t a terrible price to pay. Both picks involved won’t cost the Sharks in the current draft year, where they’re already light on picks?
Doug did well on this one.
Despite his bits and pieces of NHL experience, O’Regan was initially announced in this trade package as a prospect. The former Boston University forward had been impressive with the Barracuda over the last two seasons, but has failed to translate that into an effective NHL game.
In this last preseason, we had hope. O’Regan saw some time on a top line — albeit, preseason top line — and a glimmer of the highly-touted hockey IQ of the 5-foot-9 forward found its way through. His play-making ability is there, it just might need some more time to cook.
On a suddenly vacant Barracuda squad, O’Regan centered a top line with Marcus Sorensen and the two lead the offense, often at the top of the ‘Cuda’s score sheet between stints with the big club. While his stints with the Sharks were underwhelming — just four assists in 19 games this season — his growth as a player seems undeniable.
Jumping straight out of BU and into the ‘Cuda, O’Regan put up 58 points in 63 games, leading all AHL rookies. He added 7 points in 15 games during their post-season run to the Western Conference Final last year. He was named the 2016-17 AHL Rookie of the Year. This season, he’s tallied 25 points in 33 games.
The promise is still there. But he was never able to effectively fill the bottom-six role the Sharks continued to put him in. A small, natural center with a good hockey sense is great on paper, but he was unlikely to ever succeed in San Jose.
Holes in the Offense
The Joe Thornton injury has thrown this team for a loop. With no updates on when he’ll be able to return to the line up and what he’ll look like when he does return (he had a rough go of coming back from the last knee injury), it became clear that without both Thornton and Patrick Marleau, the Sharks’ options for filling out their top-six were limited, and often resulted in players playing out of their element.
The Sharks needed a true top-six forward. They found the best one available.
In December, this is what Doug Wilson told Curtis Pashelka of Mercury News about acquiring a rental:
“Getting everybody back in, getting some guys back on top of their game, being healthier, I think that’s when you truly evaluate this team,” Wilson said recently. “We’re looking forward to that. If there are guys that can come in and help us and fit for now and into the future, absolutely.
“But I don’t see me trading key young core players for them.”
Tackling the cost of rentals: by no means did Doug Wilson trade any piece of this team’s core for Kane. That part of the game plan is great.
As it stands, Evander Kane is technically a rental. With a cap hit of $5.25 million at the end of a six-year contract, the 26-year-old will be a free agent this summer. Can Kane help the Sharks’ future? Sure, if he decides to sign. But until an extension is reached, the crux of the issue becomes this: Can he help the Sharks now?
Kane was ranked third on the Sabres in points this season, with 40 points in 61 games. His 20 goals ranked second on the Sabres, while his 20 assists ranked fifth. He’s also accrued 57 penalty minutes, three shorthanded goals, and 120 hits. Kane is tied for fifth in the NHL in shots on goal with 227.
In his 557 NHL games between the Atlanta Thrashers, Winnipeg Jets, and Buffalo Sabres, Kane has totaled 177 goals and 163 assists for 340 points and 646 penalty minutes. He has been a 20-goal scorer for each of the last three seasons, also reaching that mark in 2011-12 with the Jets, where at 20-years-old, he was the youngest player to reach 30 goals that season.
There is still room for concern: Kane is injury-prone and has never played a full 82-game season. Among the list? A bone fracture in 2010, a grocery list of minor injuries his sophomore season including a knee injury, a concussion in 2012, shoulder surgery in 2015, and a hand injury and cracked ribs in 2016.
The good news is that injuries may have kept us from seeing his true ceiling. The bad news is that his style of play doesn’t exactly lend itself toward keeping him healthy.
His numbers are good. He seems to be a combination of the physical play the Sharks have lacked — due to younger skilled players beating out gritty veterans for roster spots this season — and a scoring touch that the Sharks will more than welcome in the absence of Joe Thornton. Those sentiments were echoed by Doug Wilson and Captain Joe Pavelski today.
“Evander is one of the top young power forwards in the NHL. He is a dynamic player who has a unique combination of size, grit, speed and goal-scoring ability,” said Wilson. “We wanted to add a player that could help this team but also was just hitting his prime. We feel that Evander fits both of those needs and we see this as a great opportunity for him to get to know our group and the city of San Jose.”
“I’m excited for what Evander can bring to this team,” said Joe Pavelski, who played with Kane on Dynamo Minsk in the KHL during the 2012-13 lockout. “He plays an extremely hard game and I love the edge he plays with.”
That edge doesn’t come without a cost.
In 2014, Kane was accused of assaulting a man in Vancouver and that man sued for damages brought on by the assault, including a concussion. The case buried Kane in legal issues that did him no service in repairing a relationship with the Winnipeg Jets’ management. They’d long been critical of Kane, especially after an incident in which he used a homophobic slur on Twitter. It wasn’t long before he found himself sent off to Buffalo.
But the off-ice issues only intensified in a new city. Kane was charged with sexual assault in December of 2015 and harassment of three women in June of 2016. The second incident allegedly involved Kane grabbing a woman by the throat and telling another, “You’re coming to my house with me and you’re going to like it.” Though both cases were eventually dropped, the second case saw Erie County Acting District Attorney Michael Flaherty say, “It’s our opinion that the evidence does support the charges.”
Whether or not you believe what happened, there is a long-running history of disagreements between Kane and management and off-ice issues never really stay off-ice. The Sharks are a team that expects to win and yes, can get a bit terse when they don’t.
A man who has been accused of assault — multiple times, at that — is a far cry from replacing the absence of Patrick Marleau in the dressing room.
The Sharks won this trade.
Doug Wilson was able to convince GM Jason Botterill that Danny O’Regan is an NHL prospect, and maybe some day he will be. But that’s something he was never going to achieve in San Jose. To turn him and a couple of picks in the future into a young top-six winger is the kind of trade that keeps Wilson comfy in his San Jose home.
Nothing is that easy, though. The Sabres sold Kane relatively low because his reputation meant there were no other offers on the table. The Sharks made a compromise in bringing in a bad person who is a good player and that’s not a risk without consequences, even if not immediately apparent.