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2018-19 Season Review: Evander Kane, penalty king

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Kane led the entire NHL in penalty minutes, ahead of infamous pests like Tom Wilson and Antoine Roussel.

May 11, 2019; San Jose Sharks left wing Evander Kane controls the puck against St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and defenseman Colton Parayko during the third period in game one of the Western Conference Final of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Reviewing Evander Kane’s first full season with the San Jose Sharks has to address a major issue: his penalty problem. Kane led the league in penalty minutes at the end of the regular season with 153. That total is precisely double that of Barclay Goodrow, the Sharks’ second-highest penalized player.

Kane played mostly in the top six, a role which is generally expected to produce offense. His constant presence in the penalty box not only kept him from contributing as much as he could have, but put the Sharks at a man-disadvantage more than any other player.

Evander Kane player card Getty Images/Fear the Fin illustration by JD Young

That’s not to say Kane’s offensive activity was completely lacking. He was sixth overall on the Sharks in points with 56, and his 30 goals were ranked fourth on the squad. He also fired the second-most shots (268) of any Shark aside from Brent Burns (300), who always leads in that category.

Aside from again taking the most penalties of anybody in the postseason — he remains the NHL leader in PIMs with 61, even a week after the Sharks’ elimination at the hands of the St. Louis Blues — Kane pretty much disappeared. Despite playing in all 20 games, Kane recorded only eight points, two of which were goals. His goal contribution was lesser than that of Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Kevin Labanc, neither of whom are paid specifically for their offensive work.

Career Summary (via HockeyViz)

Kane’s offensive production began to peak right around the midway point of the season. | HockeyViz

Kane saw pretty consistent ice time throughout this season, mostly on the low end of top line minutes. He played slightly less on average compared to last season, when he was traded late in the year.

His production reached its peak near the middle of the season when he averaged three primary points per hour. Compared to the rest of his career, it was the biggest climb and subsequent drop-off in production. By the end of the year, he was contributing about 1.5 primary points per hour.

RAPM Chart (via Evolving Hockey)

We don’t want that salmon-colored bar | Evolving Hockey

Kane had a mildly positive impact for offensive goals for, expected goals for and Corsi for. On the power play, he also made positive contributions in 142 minutes on ice. However, the most obvious and upsetting number is his defensive expected goals for, which is just over one standard deviation below the positional mean. Essentially, he helped the other team’s expected goals for.

Highlight

Kane scored the Sharks’ first goal of the season midway through the first period of the opening game. Defender Justin Braun tossed the puck to the bench-side boards as both the Sharks and Anaheim Ducks were changing lines. Kane saw the puck land in front of the Ducks’ blueline and grabbed control, sliding to the left wing before cutting toward the center. He put the puck through the legs of Ducks defender Josh Manson, who had just come onto the ice. With both Pontus Aberg and Cam Fowler converging on him, Kane sent a wrist shot on John Gibson, who slowed the puck but couldn’t stop it.

The goal tied the game at 1-1, though the Sharks ended up losing 5-2 (Kane also took a tripping penalty late in the second period. Rickard Rackell scored the first power play goal of the season against the Sharks on that penalty kill).

What comes next?

Kane is signed until the 2024-25 season at $7 million average annual value. At that pay grade, the Sharks cannot afford for him to disappear in the playoffs again. They also aren’t paying him to take penalties at the rate he did this season. As a power forward, his style of play opens him up to injuries and streaky performances.

Kane played mostly with Pavelski and/or Donskoi this season, and both of them could potentially be leaving the Sharks this summer. With Kane guaranteed to stay, potentially long-term, he may see more ice time next season if one or both of them depart.

It would be a bit of a surprise if Kane finishes his current contract as a Shark, even if just for the volume of long-term contracts the Sharks have signed and the potential lockout offering a possibility of compliance buyouts. However, he’s on a modified no-trade clause until the end of the contract term, so he can submit three teams that he would accept a trade to each season. Or, the Sharks could opt to expose him when the Seattle NHL team has its expansion draft in summer 2021.

He’ll be 33 when his contract ends and he becomes an unrestricted free agent.