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Deep Blue Sea: Kane cleared waivers — Now what?

More on Evander Kane, plus Lemieux and Marchand player safety news and a new Penguins owner in today’s news and notes.

Evander Kane #9 skates onto the ice while facing the Anaheim Ducks at SAP Center on April 14, 2021 in San Jose, California. Photo by Brandon Magnus/NHLI via Getty Images

After being placed on waivers on Sunday, Evander Kane cleared yesterday, and has been reassigned to the San Jose Barracuda. It’s an interesting move that, while expected, has prompted more questions than answers regarding his potential return to the San Jose Sharks roster.

One common reaction I’ve seen is that some fans think that Kane won’t report to the AHL or play for the Barracuda. I understand where this take comes from, and believe me, the last thing I’d want to see is Kane on the Barracuda roster. But Kane is under contract with the Sharks, which would mean a failure to report would breach his contract. That outcome is both improbable and would open up another legal dispute Kane would have to contend with, and he’s been enmeshed in enough litigation to last a lifetime. Between divorce proceedings and declaring bankruptcy, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes reasons that make a breach of contract a bad idea.

The only way I could see Kane breaking his contract by failing to report to the AHL is if it were an agreed-upon course of action between him and the team, for purposes of contract termination. But considering that both camps (Kane and his agent, and the Sharks) are looking for a trade, that seems unlikely, especially given assistant general manager Joe Will’s confidence that Kane will report.

A trade has always been my preferred solution, and it’s clear that it’s the team’s as well. Not only will they off-load an ongoing headache, but they would receive some sort of return for the time, money and energy spent developing him as a player. I’ve seen a couple of comments of fans expressing that no one would want to trade for him, and I hear you. I wouldn’t want him on my team either. But the Carolina Hurricanes wanted Tony DeAngelo, and the Los Angeles Kings wanted Brendan Lemieux, so safe to say there will be a place for him somewhere.

The Sharks have expressed their willingness to retain up to 50 percent of his salary, and Kane’s agent is reportedly speaking to teams about a trade, so it may be sooner rather than later that Kane is shipped off to a new team. Possible landing places? The Vancouver Canucks have been rumored to be in the conversation, as well as an unnamed Eastern Conference team.

As for the AHL, it definitely presents a locker room problem. I love the confidence of Jake Middleton and Noah Gregor, plus head coach Roy Sommer, who all expressed that they felt the strength of the locker room’s leadership and chemistry would be enough to dissuade any bad influence from Kane. I’m not in the locker room, so I have no idea what their dynamic truly is. But, given what I know about the AHL, I have a lot of concerns.

First, he’s not the player I would want to serve as a veteran presence or role model in a room full of mostly young, impressionable players who are NHL-bound. While the Barracuda are an anomaly in their close-knit relationship with the Sharks given their shared space and systems, AHL and NHL locker rooms have very different locker room environments.

In the AHL, there’s the possibility of tension between teammates given the fact that they’re all competing for the same, singular role on the Sharks’ roster. Plus, there’s a mix of players, some who are NHL-bound, and others who are career AHL players. There’s an added dynamic of whether or not an AHL team is there to develop players (which further complicates the space between career AHL players and those on NHL contracts) or to win games.

Either way, Evander Kane’s presence in the Barracuda locker room until a trade or a call-up will mean a change in team chemistry. It’s just a question of how.

News & Notes

  • Middleton, Gregor not worried about Kane disrupting Barracuda [San Jose Hockey Now]
  • Evander Kane heads to the AHL Barracuda, but future with Sharks seems unlikely [The Athletic]
  • Kane waived by Sharks; new agent seeks trade [ESPN]

Blood in the Water

  • Brad Marchand suspended three games for slew-footing OEL [NBC Sports]
  • Red Sox owners reach agreement to buy Pittsburgh Penguins [AP]
  • Kings’ Brendan Lemieux bites hand of Senators’ Brady Tkachuk, is looking at a long suspension [USA Today]
  • NHL team president expects to ‘be right on par’ with pre-pandemic levels by end of season [Yahoo Finance]

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