Desperate Oilers decide signing Evander Kane is worth the risk

Desperate Oilers decide signing Evander Kane is worth the risk
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For those demanding moves from Oilers GM Ken Holland: be careful what you wish for. After the NHL concluded its investigation about Evander Kane and allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent, the Oilers made the highly questionable decision to sign him for the rest of this season.

Out of context, the Oilers are signing Evander Kane for cheap. It’s much tougher to gauge how much goodwill they’ve lost by making this gamble, however.

Oilers sign Evander Kane: cheap only in salary cap terms

The Oilers have been connected to a possible Evander Kane signing for weeks now. Among other things, the starts and stops of Kane’s availability allowed the Oilers to leaf through a variety of criticisms and change their mind.

Clearly, GM Ken Holland and the Oilers organization remained resolute in signing Evander Kane. Kevin Weekes first tweeted possible details of the prorated contract the Oilers are signing Kane to:

A wide variety of reporters backed up Weekes, but do note that the Oilers haven’t confirmed the Kane signing yet. If you want to drill even deeper into the details:

Kane’s agent Dan Milstein confirmed the contract on Thursday.

This all comes after the Sharks waived Evander Kane to terminate his contract around Jan. 8. (Afterward, the NHLPA filed a grievance on Kane’s behalf.)

Now, it’s important to note that the Oilers weren’t the only team seemingly interested in giving Kane a “second chance.” Earlier this month, TSN’s Darren Dreger estimated there may have been about 20 NHL teams that expressed at least some interest. Dreger mentioned maintained interest from teams like the Lightning and Panthers.

But the Oilers are the team that actually signed him. Time will tell if they’ll look back at this decision and believe it was worth it.

The phrase “second chance” doing a lot of work

During a Tuesday, Jan. 11 press conference, Holland trotted out a line about giving Evander Kane a chance. Of course, anyone with even a vague memory of allegations toward Evander Kane will realize that he’s far beyond his “second” chance.

Consider this thread alone:

While the NHL moved beyond accusations of Kane betting on games, and couldn’t “substantiate” other allegations, the league suspended him for 21 games due to NHL COVID-19 violations (for reportedly using a fake vaccination card). Following that, the Sharks moved to terminate his contract based on AHL COVID-19 protocol violations.

The NHL shared the following release on the latest investigation that slowed Kane’s return to play.

Beyond more serious allegations (and league rule violations), Evander Kane’s clashes with teammates go way back. From inspiring “Tracksuit Night” in Winnipeg to prompting Sharks teammates to demand his ouster, Kane’s also experienced issues in the locker room.

(Though reports indicate that the Oilers discussed Kane with Connor McDavid, that hasn’t stopped people from wondering if this could be the sort of move that nudges 97 into asking for a trade.)

[MORE: Ken Holland balking at other Oilers changes]

To little surprise, the interest (from the Oilers, from the NHL) prompted a ton of criticism when it first seemed like he’d sign a new contract. Yahoo’s Chris Cuthbert wrote that it takes a “special type of desperation, or arrogance, to sign Evander Kane.” Like many, USA Today’s Mary Clarke opined that Kane hasn’t earned yet another chance. Even Mark Spector  wrote that the Oilers eyeing Kane “leaves a lot to be desired.”

But, compared to his previous $7 million cap hit, Kane signed with the Oilers for relatively cheap. Their season is spinning out of control, and Kane has scored 22, 26, and 30 goals the past three seasons.

Probing further, Kane brings other things to the table, although he also has a tendency to take penalties.

Maybe the Oilers will try to turn things around with trades and/or coaching changes, yet adding Evander Kane means they don’t have to give up anything but relative loose change and a roster spot. You know, unless you consider all the goodwill the Oilers will lose. (Never irrelevant, but especially true after multiple Oilers fans threw their jerseys to the ice after a painful 6-0 loss to the Panthers.)

Would possibly getting those cheap goals — and, the Oilers hope, more wins — be worth wading through all of these criticisms? Ken Holland’s answer seems to be “Yes.”

Really, though, it only heightens the feeling that Holland and the Oilers are just flat-out of ideas.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.