SAN JOSE – The Sharks have only a few days left to decide – or announce – how to handle Evander Kane’s possible return to the organization after his 21-game suspension ends.
According to Sharks trainer Bob Boughner, however, putting Kane back on the line-up immediately is not an option.
Kane did not attend training camp and has not trained with the team all season. Two days into the season, Kane was banned for violating the NHL / NHLPA COVID-19 protocol, extending his time off the team on the ice to over two months.
Kane’s suspension officially ends after the Sharks played the Blackhawks in Chicago on Saturday, and General Manager Doug Wilson has given no indication of how to deal with the situation. The Sharks’ next game after Saturday is Monday in New Jersey against the Devils.
“That’s why the players come to camp,” said Boughner on Wednesday morning before the Sharks host the Ottawa Senators. “It’s a two week process of playing preseason and inter-squad games, getting physical contact, being pushed around and that’s really the next phase of training.
According to the collective agreement of the NHL and the NHLPA, a player must agree if the club wishes him to play with his minor league team in order to improve the condition. According to the CBA, each condition loan may not last longer than 14 days.
In 2018, Washington Capitals’ Tom Wilson spent 16 games away after being suspended but did not play AHL games before returning to the NHL.
Wilson has been banned from the NHL for 20 games for illegally checking the head of St. Louis striker Oskar Sundqvist in a preseason game in September 2018. But Wilson had his suspension reduced to 14 games by an independent referee, and by the time the arbitration was closed, Wilson had already served 16 games. He immediately returned to the line-up of the Capitals, but at least had the advantage of a training camp.
In January 2019, Austin Watson, then with the Nashville Predators, was suspended indefinitely without pay as part of the NHL’s substance abuse program. Watson, now in his sophomore season with the Senators, did not train with the team for over two months as he missed 27 games. He played in two AHL games before returning to Nashville’s lineup in April.
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – MAY 3: Tomas Hertl (48) of San Jose Sharks is congratulated by Evander Kane (9) of San Jose Sharks on his goal against the Colorado Avalanche in the second period at the SAP Center in San Jose, California. , on Monday May 3, 2021. (Nhat V. Meyer / Bay Area News Group)
Kane, 30, has never played an AHL game and it is unclear if he will next month.
The Barracuda will not play again after their game on Saturday in Ontario until Abbotsford on December 4th. The team will train in San Jose Monday through Thursday next week before heading to British Columbia.
Aside from his stamina, however, Kane should also get his timing back and learn the nuances of the Shark system, which has been tweaked since the end of last season. Kane’s last NHL game took place on May 12, when the Sharks missed the playoffs for the second year in a row.
“Without a doubt, it will be difficult for someone to just jump in and play at a high level,” said Sharks winger Andrew Cogliano on Wednesday morning, adding that Kane is playing in the NHL straight away. “As an athlete, as a professional, he has to get it going and be on his way pretty quickly.”
It is likely that the Sharks have explored other options with regards to Kane if they no longer want him on the team.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Freidman mentioned Tuesday on the Toronto radio that he “heard” that the Sharks were willing to withhold part of Kane’s salary to facilitate a trade.
But a deal could still prove extremely difficult given the size of Kane’s contract, which has an annual cap hit of $ 7 million for three more seasons after this one. It also begs the question of whether Kane has a negative presence in the locker room and whether other teams would be willing to take this potential risk.
Or the Sharks could just pay Kane what he is due and ask him to stay off the team for the rest of the season and then reconsider the situation. Or they could put him on waiver. In this case, if not claimed by another team, he would be assigned to the Barracuda.
Bob Boughner knew that James Reimer was “all in” with the sharks. A call that night proved it.
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Terminating Kane’s deal is currently not an option. A contract can only be terminated if the player does something about it, and this has not previously been the case.
In any case, since training camp started in September, the Sharks have been saying their focus has been on the players they have in their room.
Without Kane, the Sharks had a 9-8-1 record and were fifth in the Pacific Division ahead of Wednesday’s game. That’s an improvement on the 7-9-2 record they had after 18 games last season, when they played all but four away games.
“We’ll see what happens,” said Cogliano. “I know it’s a story. I know a lot of things happen, but there’s so much in the NHL to think about from game to game in terms of yourself and I think that’s all we focus on at this point. These decisions are really not ours. “