Exactly a decade ago Monday, San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson sent a first round pick to the Buffalo Sabres in a deal for one of the best players available at the deadline, only to see him leave in free agency.
Defenseman Brian Campbell had an instant, short-lived impact in San Jose. He scored 26 points in 33 regular season and postseason games, but signed in Chicago on July 1, 2008, sealing his fate as a rental.
Wilson did not trade another first round pick at the deadline until 10 years later, when he traded a 2019 first rounder for yet another big-name, pending free agent from Buffalo, forward Evander Kane, on Monday. Kane is set to debut against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday, 10 years to the day after Campbell’s first game in teal.
With Monday’s splash, Wilson seemed to have learned from the one that preceded it.
For one, that first round pick is in a draft 16 months away, as opposed to four. Plus, the pick this time around has conditions.
Kane must re-sign or San Jose must win its first Stanley Cup in franchise history, otherwise that 2019 pick becomes a second rounder. If Kane walks as Campbell did, the Sharks won’t pay as steep of a price.
In total, the Sharks acquired Kane for the aforementioned pick, a conditional 2019 fourth round pick (it becomes a 2020 third at San Jose’s discretion), and forward prospect Danny O’Regan. That’s not as steep of a price as other teams paid for older rentals (Rick Nash), older players with term (Derick Brassard), and younger players with term (Ryan Hartman), plus Kane addresses a major need.
The Sharks have one of the league’s worst five-on-five offenses this season, and sat 25th in scoring rate (2.23 goals for/60 minutes) and 24th in goals (111) entering Monday, the worst marks of any teams in a playoff position. That’s where Kane should come in.
Only 24 players scored more five-on-five goals than Kane (45) since the beginning of the 2015-16 season until the deadline. His 0.89 goals per 60 five-on-five minutes over that span are higher than any current Shark, save for Logan Couture, according to Corsica Hockey.
Yet San Jose’s offer was the only “legitimate” one Sabres general manager Jason Botterill said he had on the table. That may be nothing more than the busy market at work. It may also be a reason to raise eyebrows.
Kane’s now been traded twice in his career, and clashed with teammates in both stops. In 2014, then-Winnipeg Jets teammate Dustin Byfuglien reportedly threw Kane’s track suit in a shower after he wore it to a meeting in violation of team rules. This January, he and then-Sabres teammate Justin Falk reportedly got into an altercation at practice.
Trouble’s previously followed him away from the rink, too. In 2015, Kane was accused of, but ultimately did not face charges for sexual assault, although he was later sued for the same incident. Charges stemming from an alleged incident in 2016 with two women and a bouncer at a Buffalo bar were also dropped.
Both Kane and Wilson told reporters in a conference call on Monday they were confident the 26-year-old has matured. The GM said he even included San Jose’s veteran leaders in the decision-making process, and that Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns, who played with Kane in the KHL and the IIHF World Championships, respectively, spoke highly of their new-and-former teammate.
Still, those off-ice issues, as well as the nature of the deal itself, make the Kane trade far more complex than when the Sharks last traded for a Sabres star. While the Campbell deal is largely the story of a rental gone wrong, Kane's tale in teal may not be so simple.