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Sharks to terminate Evander Kane’s contract

The saga has ended ... or has it?

Evander Kane #9 of the San Jose Sharks skates during warmups against the Arizona Coyotes at SAP Center on May 8, 2021 in San Jose, California. Photo by Brandon Magnus/NHLI via Getty Images

It wasn’t exactly clear how the San Jose Sharks were going to navigate the murky situation they found themselves in with Evander Kane. It didn’t seem likely that they would buy out his contract with Martin Jones’ dead cap still on the books, and a trade seemed even more unfathomable. So, as his 21-game suspension for violating the NHL’s COVID-19 Protocol expired in late November, the Sharks placed Kane on waivers and assigned him to the San Jose Barracuda, where he played five games, scoring two goals and adding six assists.

But it seems the organization has found a way out.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported today that the Sharks have placed Kane on unconditional waivers for the purpose of contract termination. The team consequently issued a statement that they have informed Kane of his placement on waivers “for breach of his NHL Standard Player Contract and for violation of the AHL COVID-19 Protocol.” The Sharks had no further comment.

The 21-game suspension to start the season was reportedly because Kane provided the league with a falsified vaccination record. The 30-year-old forward was placed on the AHL’s COVID Protocol on Dec. 22, 2021 and was away from the team until Jan 6., 2022 with symptoms. In November, Sharks assistant general manager Joe Will said that Kane was fully vaccinated.

For those unfamiliar with unconditional waivers for purpose of contract termination, it is essentially the NHL equivalent of firing for cause, and NHL teams can do this at any time. For a player to be placed on unconditional waivers for this purpose, they need to be found in breach of their contract. Since the Sharks allege Kane violated AHL COVID Protocol, this likely would have fallen under breach of contract.

Kane’s entire $7 million cap hit will come off the books, not just for this season, but for the remaining three years of his contract. Per CapFriendly, Kane will forfeit $22,885,000 in guaranteed salary.

UPDATE: Emily Kaplan of ESPN reported that Kane violated AHL COVID rules by traveling to his hometown of Vancouver while on COVID Protocol. Bill Daly, the deputy commissioner of the NHL, stated that the league is “satisfied that [the Sharks] have adequate grounds to terminate.”

The NHLPA and Kane’s agent, Dan Milstein, though, do not think that’s the case. The NHLPA issued a statement that they intend to file a grievance to challenge the termination of Kane’s contract if he clears waivers. Milstein, in a statement of his own, said the Sharks “do not have sufficient grounds for taking this action.”