Canucks would like to ‘add a proven scorer,’ so cue the Evander Kane speculation

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Sven Baertschi took positive steps last season, as one of the few bright spots on a team that eventually finished 28th in the overall standings.

Once the now 23-year-old forward established himself as an every-game player — and that was a challenge under head coach Willie Desjardins at the beginning of the season — he scored 15 goals and 28 points in 69 games, developed some nice chemistry with Bo Horvat, who was asked to take on the second-line center role with Brandon Sutter injured, and had some looks on the power play.

He was rewarded with a two-year, $3.7 million contract.

Despite those steps, the Canucks and GM Jim Benning are still searching for another established forward, one capable of scoring and playing a gritty game.

“We’d like to add a proven scorer who brings some grit to take the pressure off Sven, so he can keep developing at his own pace,” Benning recently told Postmedia.

“He took a big step last year and wants to prove to people that he has more to give. But I don’t know where he’s going to end up (next season). At some point, that (second line) is where he’s going to be, but maybe he plays on the third line with the capability of playing on the power play and potentially scoring 15 to 20 goals for us.”

Naturally, this has already kickstarted speculation about the idea of perhaps bringing Evander Kane to his hometown of Vancouver and the Canucks.

Kane is 24 years old. He’s from Vancouver. He played his junior hockey there with the WHL Giants. He has two years remaining on his current contract, with a cap hit of $5.25 million. He also would fit the bill of a player capable of scoring as a big winger among the top-six forwards on a team.

Outside of 19-year-old Jake Virtanen, the Canucks don’t really have a big, powerful winger and Virtanen, fresh off his rookie season with seven goals and 13 points, has yet to establish himself as a scorer. Perhaps in time.

Benning has admitted in the past he’d be interested in Kane, apparently making an offer to the Jets. However, when Kane was dealt to Buffalo, Benning said he wasn’t willing to part with prospect forwards Bo Horvat, Jared McCann or Virtanen to facilitate a deal.

That was well over a year ago.

Since then, Kane has run into multiple off-ice issues. He was not charged following an investigation into a sexual encounter, but only a few months later, he’s now facing non-criminal harassment charges stemming from an incident on June 24.

If Benning has interest in acquiring Kane, specifically, he certainly wouldn’t say it now, especially after getting busted for tampering last month.

However, he has made it clear the Canucks are in the market for another scoring forward.

And, judging by the reaction on social media, that has some hockey fans in Vancouver turning their attention to Evander Kane.

— The Canucks on Friday signed 20-year-old forward Michael Carcone to a three-year entry-level deal. Undrafted, Carcone scored 47 goals and 89 points last season with Drummondville in the QMJHL.

Related: Sabres GM Murray: Patience is growing thin with Evander Kane after latest legal trouble