- Editor's note: Sheng Peng will be a regular contributor to NBC Sports California's Sharks coverage for the 2021-22 season. You can read more of his coverage on San Jose Hockey Now, listen to him on the San Jose Hockey Now Podcast, and follow him on Twitter at Sheng_Peng.
How do you trade a problem like Evander Kane?
That’s what the Sharks are trying to solve right now.
There are many ways to do it, but none are easy. It’s complicated because of the combination of Kane’s immense ability on the ice, his many off-the-ice issues, and his sizable contract.
The biggest hang-up is his contract. Kane signed a seven-year, $49 million contract in May 2018 that still has this year and three more seasons left on it.
Right or wrong, teams will overlook a pending battery case in Buffalo, accusations of domestic violence by his estranged wife Anna Kane, a possible gambling problem, and multiple reported instances of the player breaking team rules or not getting along with his teammates. Not every organization will overlook these red flags, but a number of them will. The concern is committing that many years to a player with such a checkered past, and therefore, an uncertain future.
With all that said, let’s look at how the Sharks can, realistically, part with Kane.
Sharks trade full contract
The Sharks already waived Kane and found no takers for free.
Well, it wasn’t exactly free: A team would’ve had to assume the entirety of Kane’s remaining contract. That he cleared is an obvious sign of a devalued asset, despite his obvious productivity.
Kane has scored 48 goals over the last two shortened seasons, which leads the Sharks.
It’s still possible, however, for the Sharks to part with the entirety of Kane’s contract. The catch?
As Hart Levine of salary cap site Puckpedia suggested, they probably would have to take on another bad contract in return.
That’s not ideal, of course, but nobody wants Kane with his current contract without getting something, on top of Kane, in return.
It’ll probably be a really bad multi-year contract, probably close in terms to Kane’s remaining deal, coming back in this case.
Sharks retain 50 percent, other team retains 50 percent
Don’t rule this out: San Jose Hockey Now’s sources suggest that teams do have interest in this scenario.
Essentially, the Sharks would retain half of Kane’s remaining contract, the maximum allowed by the CBA. The other team, who would also acquire Kane as a player, would retain the other 50 percent. That’s essentially $14 million for four more seasons, $3.5 million a year each for both San Jose and their potential trade partner.
For the Sharks, this might be attractive because it’s a more straightforward trade. There’s no third team with their demands.
Of course, that’s a healthy commitment from one team for Kane. Will any team be willing?
Puckpedia's Levine reminds us that the financial risk isn’t too great, in his mind, for the team trading for Kane in this case.
“There are lots of outs with him if you get him at $3.5 million,” Levine opined.
Levine gave this example: Let’s say Kane’s new team plays him this year and next season, then decides to buy him out. At that point, there are two years left on Kane’s contract, and they’re just responsible for a two-year, $7 million buyout. That won’t hurt too much. And the Sharks would still be on the hook for the other half.
But regardless, a team is still taking a big chance in this scenario with the combustible Kane. So it’s likely the Sharks will have to sweeten the pot – that means take 50 percent of Kane’s original contract and add another incentive.
Could it be a high draft pick or two? Or could it be taking on another team’s bad contract?
That’s Levine’s best guess, that the Sharks will end up retaining 50 percent and taking another bad contract to rid themselves of Kane.
For what it’s worth, the Sharks have accrued additional cap space this year with Kane’s 21-game suspension – suspended players don’t count against the cap – so that does put them in better position to take on a bad contract, at least this year.
It’s also worth noting: Kane pretty much has his choice of where he goes. When the Sharks re-signed him in the summer of 2018, they gave him a three-team trade clause, meaning there are technically only three teams that San Jose can trade him to.
Kane can choose to be flexible with his three-team trade clause, if a team not on it shows interest -- and one has to imagine that he will be flexible to get out of the AHL.
Sharks retain 50 percent, second and third teams retain 25 percent each
"From what I heard they're going to do this as a three-way,” Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman said on the Jeff Marek Show last week, “because it's very hard to fit Kane's salary in on a straight-up deal unless you're taking something back that you may not want.”
This trade has yet to materialize and isn’t without its challenges either.
Here’s how it works: San Jose would retain 50 percent for this year and three more years – that’s $3.5 million a year.
Team No. 2, the “middle man” team, can take another 25 percent of the original contract – that’s $1.75 million per year. A maximum of two teams can retain a contract.
Finally, there’s the “final destination” team, where Evander would actually play – that’s the remaining 25 percent of the original contract – that’s $1.75 million per year.
Add $3.5 million plus $1.75 million plus $1.75 million, and that makes $7 million.
The problem? San Jose gets something when they trade Kane – they get rid of a headache they don’t want around anymore. The “final destination” team gets something – they get a very good and motivated player on the cheap.
But what does the “middle man” team get? That’s where the Sharks will have to give up something valuable. The “middle man” team is taking on Kane’s contract, admittedly, a reduced one, but for this year and three more seasons – when he’s not doing anything for them.
I was chatting with a team executive who thinks the Sharks will have to trade at least a first-round draft pick to the “middle man” team – I’m not sure if I agree with that assessment, but it won’t be a cheap price, or this deal would’ve been consummated already. Twenty-five percent of Kane’s original contract is just $1.75 million per year. But over four years, that’s $7 million. So there's still a significant cost.
Levine agreed: “I would be skeptical that there's a team willing to retain like a quarter of this contract for three-and-a-half years. Unless there's a real significant asset going with it.”
Levine offered the Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes as teams with cap space that might take on a piece of Kane’s contract for picks.
Levine also noted that all previous three-way trades that involved three-way distributions of cap hits, in his memory, featured players in the last year of their contracts.
Just last season, the Sharks were the middle man in a pair of three-way trades, taking on 25 percent of Nick Foligno and Mattias Janmark’s expiring deals from the Columbus Blue Jackets and Chicago Blackhawks, respectively, and re-routing the players to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vegas Golden Knights.
Teams, however, are more protective of their future cap space, armed with the notion that they’ll be more competitive in those years. So asking another organization to sacrifice cap space not just this season, but three years past that, that’s going to come at a cost.
Levine also noted that Kane is due a $2 million signing bonus in September. While that doesn’t affect the cap hit, a cash-poor team like the Ottawa Senators might be more willing to take on a portion of Kane’s contract after that bonus has been paid.
That line of thinking, of course, doesn’t help the Sharks this season.
This is still a distinct possibility.
If you’re a team that’s interested in Kane, waiting the Sharks out until the summer, and seeing if they’ll buy out Kane would be a prudent move. If the Sharks buy out Kane, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent, and at that point, a team would be able to sign him to a low-risk, short-term contract.
Tony DeAngelo’s case might prove to be instructive: DeAngelo was waived by the New York Rangers last season, and nobody claimed the defenseman and his full contract. But when the Rangers bought out DeAngelo in the summer, he became a UFA, and the Carolina Hurricanes snapped him up on a one-year, $1 million contract.
Will that be Kane’s fate? We’ll see. For now, Kane toils in the AHL, for who knows how long.