Should the Senators be interested in Evander Kane?

Some interesting news came out of Winnipeg recently. Here's the news, according to Gary Lawless: The Thrashers Jets offered restricted free agent winger Evander Kane a six-year deal worth $29 million. That comes out to an average annual value of $4.83 million per year. Here's the interesting part: Kane and his agents have done nothing with the offer. No rejection, no counter-offer, no response.

As a negotiating tactic, it isn't a move that makes much sense. While Kane is coming off of a career year (30G, 27A), his previous two (19G, 24A, minus-12 and 14G, 12A) leave plenty to be desired. A six-year commitment to a player with a resume short on quality is a pretty impressive move, and demonstrates just how highly the Jets organization thinks of him--but does he think as highly of the organization?

Of course, this is pure speculation, but in my experience, the silent treatment has never been used to signal happiness to someone. The contract the Jets have on the table is more than fair, so while it's possible Kane is simply hoping for more money, it's also possible he just doesn't want play in Winnipeg, and this is the best way to communicate that message. It's also possible he's merely waiting to see what the new collective bargaining agreement holds, but considering what the owners are asking for, it's unlikely there's a better deal waiting for him in length, amount, or unrestricted free agency status after negotiations are finished with the players. The lack of logic behind the other two possibilities combined with other rumors of unhappiness leads me to believe Kane just doesn't want to play there, and that makes him a target Ottawa should consider.

Evander Kane

#9 / Center / Winnipeg Jets



Aug 02, 1991

2011 - Evander Kane 74 30 27 57 11 53 6 0 4 287

Kane is currently at the end of his entry-level deal, making him a restricted free agent. Having begun his career at 18, he would be an unrestricted free agent at the age of 25 under the current rules. The contract proposed by the Jets would expire when he was 26. That would put him in prime position to cash in on his next contract, regardless of changes in unrestricted free agency rule changes--he would be in his prime no matter what team could sign him.

Is Kane's contract offer from the Jets fair? Almost certainly. Kane was selected fourth overall in 2009. Milan Michalek was selected sixth overall in 2003. Here are Milan Michalek's numbers from his entry-level deal in San Jose:

2005-2006 San Jose Sharks NHL 81 17 18 35 45 | Playoffs 9 1 4 5 8
2006-2007 San Jose Sharks NHL 78 26 40 66 36 | Playoffs 11 4 2 6 4
2007-2008 San Jose Sharks NHL 79 24 31 55 47 | Playoffs 13 4 0 4 4

Compared directly with Kane's production, as previously stated:

2009-2010 Atlanta Thrashers NHL 66 14 12 26 62
2010-2011 Atlanta Thrashers NHL 73 19 24 43 68
2011-2012 Winnipeg Jets NHL 74 30 27 57 53

Michalek, with better overall numbers, earned a six-year $26 million deal. That deal creates a cap hit of $4.33 million per year, and will end after the 2013-14 season. Michalek will be 29 at that point. Why is Kane, who has a less-impressive resume, worth more?

The answer is simple: his youth gives him a higher ceiling than Michalek. At 20 years old, he has already demonstrated a very high skill level, scoring only three fewer points than Michalek last season despite not playing with a center as talented as Jason Spezza.

If the Senators were to extend an offer sheet to Kane in the amount of what Winnipeg offered, it would cost them two first-round picks, a second-round pick, and a third-round pick. The Senators have no 2013 second round pick thanks to the trade for Ben Bishop, which makes an offer sheet impossible unless they want to increase the contract value, and while Kane is a promising player, it's unlikely he's worth four first-round picks--the next level of compensation based on the current CBA.

More importantly, as Lawless points out, the Jets have the financial viability and cap space to match any offer. The Senators have no reason to try and sign Kane to a contract so huge it's unpalatable to the Jets, and that's not a move that would make any sense for a budget-conscious team like Ottawa anyway.

Could a trade work?

We know general manager Bryan Murray is looking for a top-six forward, as he always is, thanks to his pursuit of Rick Nash as well as his rumored interest in Anaheim Ducks winger Bobby Ryan. Both players have outstanding pedigrees, though the Ryan had the same number of points (31G, 26A) and Nash had just two more (30G, 29A) when compared with Kane. But Kane has only done it once.

That should make the cost of acquiring him less than that of Nash or Ryan, at least in theory. It's doubtful Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff would see it that way given the substantial offer he has sitting on the table for the young winger. There's plenty of reason to believe Kane is in the same position as Erik Karlsson was at the start of this previous season: a young star poised to explode from his cocoon and deliver on the potential he's shown. The Senators would have to give up some prime assets to get a player like that--but they'd have to give up much, much more if they wait until after it happens.

Of course, Cheveldayoff may not be willing to move Kane at all. Teams don't generally find success by trading away their best young players, and as a restricted free agent, Kane doesn't have many options besides playing. He could stage a holdout, as Kyle Turris did, but since his supposed unhappiness is merely speculation at this point, that would mark a drastic turn in relations between he and his current team.

Still, if there's even the chance Kane could be moved, it's a call Bryan Murray has to make. He's clearly willing to move assets for the right player, and young, high-end power forwards don't become available every day--and certainly not for less than $5 million a year. At that price, a player like Kane should be too good to resist.

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