Jets need Evander Kane to take another step forward

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We’re into August now and Evander Kane is still a restricted free agent. He reportedly has been offered a six-year, $29 million contract, but hasn’t accepted or rejected it.

All the same, the most probable scenario is that Kane re-signs with the Winnipeg Jets. He’s the face of the franchise and is coming off of a strong campaign, but they’ll need even more from him in the coming years.

Kane set new career-highs with 30 goals, 27 assists, and a plus-11 rating last season. He also ranked third on the team with 173 hits.

That’s certainly impressive, but in a division that also includes Eric Staal, Alex Ovechkin, and Steven Stamkos, the Winnipeg Jets have had to rely on their offensive defensemen and depth to keep up.

That might have worked last season if not for their defensive and goaltending shortcomings, but things will be tougher in 2012-13. The other two teams that finished in the bottom of the pack in the Southeast Division, Carolina and Tampa Bay, have made some important additions over the summer.

On top of that, it’s not hard to envision the Washington Capitals rebounding thanks to a combination of their summer moves and healthier campaigns from Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green.

Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Jets biggest unrestricted free agent signing was Olli Jokinen.

To be fair, Jokinen is still a decent offensive force and might help push Kane to the next level. However, it seems evident that if the Jets want to keep up with the pack, then they’ll need to start getting bigger returns from their young guys and Kane needs to be at the center of that.