- 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.
The Sharks might be rooting for Evander Kane this postseason. No, really.
Kane leads the NHL with 13 playoff goals and has his sights set on a plethora of postseason milestones. Let’s get to those records in a second -- but let’s talk first about how the Sharks could benefit from the now-Edmonton Oilers winger continuing to light the lamp this spring.
In January, the Sharks terminated the remainder of Kane’s contract, which had a little more than three years and $22.9 million left on it. The termination meant that the Sharks owed the scandal-ridden winger no money, and also wiped his cap hit, $7 million average annual value through 2024-25, off the books.
The NHLPA, however, was quick to file a grievance on Kane’s behalf. An arbitrator heard the case in April, with another hearing date to be scheduled once the Oilers’ playoff run is over.
At stake is the entirety of Kane’s contract, both money owed and the cap hit. In short, it’s all or nothing for both the Sharks and Kane. If the Sharks win and the termination is upheld, they’re free and clear of all obligations to Kane. If Kane wins and the termination is overturned, the Sharks owe him the balance of his contract.
The balance of his contract, according to a source, is minus what Kane makes with another team over the duration of this contract.
What does that mean?
If Kane wins his grievance, after this season, the Sharks will owe him $19 million of actual cash over the next three seasons, $7 million AAV against the cap. But the impending free-agent Kane won’t get to double-dip. Say the Oilers re-sign him to a three-year, $15 million deal ($5 million AAV) this summer – that would reduce what the Sharks owe Kane in real money, and turn a $7 million cap hit into a $2 million hit.
So in theory, the better that Kane plays, the more relief that the Sharks could receive, in cash, and perhaps most importantly, on the cap. The cap-strapped Sharks will need all the help that they can get to improve the team this offseason.
However, this situation is fluid. Remember, this is an unprecedented situation, and there’s still another hearing date.
The same source offered another possibility: If Kane wins his grievance, his rights and contract would revert entirely back to the Sharks.
Yes, Kane could be a Shark again this summer.
Elliotte Friedman suggested as much in an appearance with “Donnie and Dhali” last month when he said, “I don’t know. It’s not impossible that’s the outcome.”
In that case, the Sharks could try to deal Kane and the rest of his contract. But if the Sharks fail to trade Kane this summer -- remember that he has a three-team trade clause, meaning there are three organizations of his choice that he can be dealt to -- they might be forced to buy him out.
This would allow Kane to be a UFA and would be a situation where he could “double dip” -- the Sharks, in a buyout, would owe him a significant chunk of the remainder of his original contract, and he could make more money on top of that on the open market, be it in Edmonton or elsewhere.
It’s possible, in this scenario, for the Sharks to simply keep Kane, but there appears to be too much water under the bridge for that to happen.
“There are no definitive answers to [these scenarios],” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told San Jose Hockey Now in an e-mail today. “All will depend on how [the] case is presented to the arbitrator and how parties frame potential alternatives for relief.”
Meanwhile, SJHN hasn’t heard any whispers about a settlement between the two sides.
So stay tuned.
RELATED: Kane "caught by surprise" by Sharks' attempt to trade him in 2021
This is what the Sharks are “cheering” for with Kane then:
• Kane’s 13 goals this postseason ties Joe Pavelski’s 13 with the 2019-20 Dallas Stars for the most playoff goals by an ex-Shark in the season during or immediately after their departure from San Jose
• Marian Gaborik with the 2013-14 Los Angeles Kings and Frank Mahovlich with the 1970-71 Montreal Canadiens both scored 14 goals in their respective squads’ Stanley Cup-winning turns – these are the most playoff goals ever scored by an in-season acquisition, so Kane is close to becoming the most successful in-season acquisition in NHL playoff history
• It’s a longshot, especially with the Oilers down 2-0 in the Western Conference Final against the Colorado Avalanche, but Kane could eclipse Reggie Leach and Jari Kurri’s record for most goals, 19, in a postseason
Life is funny, right?
Considering how acrimonious the divorce between the Sharks and Kane was, it's fascinating that it now might be in San Jose’s best interest for their exiled star to keep shining up north.