The San Jose Sharks have spent most of their existence as a franchise working the “we’re the hockey players you’d want to move next door to” angle. They’ve spent most of this season not being able to score enough goals, especially 5x5, to be considered anything other than a playoff team with a short stay.
So Doug Wilson, who was shepherding his salary cap room for a summertime run at the New York Islanders’ John Tavares, decided to throw the dice across the room by acquiring high-powered/historically-high-maintenance left wing rental Evander Kane from the flatlined Buffalo Sabres.
The cost was high by Sharks standards – a conditional first-round draft pick in 2019, a conditional fourth-rounder in 2020 and prospect/14th forward Danny O’Regan – and Kane's history both in and outside the team has made him untouchable to many teams -- but the deal addresses an immediate need in a conference where the best teams are in other division and the best team in their own division is the ultra-precocious-but-still-expansion-y Las Vegas Golden Knights.
In other words, the Sharks have decided to leave the box of their typical thinking and take a swing for the downs. Allegedly papalytic while waiting for the return of Joe Thornton, they have gone outside their safe cocoon to make a weird end run at the Cup that has evaded them their entire existence.
Kane is a sniper and a volume goal-scorer who will have to hit the ice at a dead sprint to help San Jose, as his six-year $31.5 million contract expires this summer. Thus, there is no guarantee for either them or him when this season ends – whether it be in the worst-case scenario April 7 or in the next-best case June 15.
On the other hand, this has been a team near the bottom in scoring most of the season, with only a better-than-normal power play to save them from being fully adrift. They have not deteriorated in that statistic since Thornton’s injury but neither have they improved, so they will enter the playoffs (if they make it, that is – they are only three points clear of ninth with only 19 games to play) having to rely on a tested defense and a well-worked goalie in Martin Jones.
In short, Kane is either going to make an immediate and lasting difference or he will be a high-priced mistake by a team that sees an open window but is running out of time to get through it.