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The Next Four

Given how high he set the bar during his first season, at least part of one, with the Edmonton Oilers, it’s going to be a tall order for Evander Kane to replicate that during the new four-year, $20.5 million contract he inked with the Oilers last month. And that’s OK.

If Kane, who is fast approaching hockey’s version of middle age – he’s celebrating his 31st birthday today — can produce even a reasonable facsimile of what we saw from him in 2021-22 for the $5.125 AAV he’s getting now, he’ll be the bargain signing of GM Ken Holland’s body of work this off-season.

The numbers we know. Kane produced 22-17-39 in 43 regular season games and then one-upped that production with 13-4-17 in 15 post-season games thanks to a ridiculous shooting percentage of 22.8 – the likes we haven’t seen since Fernando Pisani went off at a 28.6 clip in 2006. Of course, with Kane you get more.

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Those numbers are impressive in themselves, but Kane brings other dimensions. Talented enough to play alongside Connor McDavid, Kane is that rare combination of skill, speed and size with an edge. He can turn a shift, a period, a game or even a series in different ways. We saw it against the Calgary Flames this spring.

WHAT’S NEXT?

May 31, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Edmonton Oilers left wing Evander Kane (91) scores a goal against Colorado Avalanche goaltender Darcy Kuemper (35) in the first period in game one of the Western Conference Final of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

With doubts about bringing in Kane in the first place duly noted, the question now is what comes next with the security of that four-year deal in hand? I don’t think there’s any doubt Kane will cover the contract production-wise. His scoring rates from last season are a steal at an AAV of $5.125 million, but what are reasonable expectations moving forward?

Is that .91 PPG, the best of Kane’s career, he flashed through 43 games last season repeatable over 82 games if he’s deployed the same? Sure, that’s possible. Can he hit 40 goals for the first time? I think that’s a pretty good bet if he stays healthy. Of course, all that remains to be seen.

What I take note of – without putting too fine an edge on it – as somebody who was not keen on the addition of Kane in the first place, is the reaction of his teammates when the new ink to keep him here was finally done. It says something about a player who hasn’t always been seen as a good teammate.

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“To have him back into the fold is really exciting,” McDavid said at Zach Hyman’s charity tournament after the new deal was done. “It was kind of touch and go there for a little bit, but to have him back is exciting for the team and me personally.

“I really enjoyed playing with him . . . he does a lot for us on the ice. He brings a lot of elements to his game that we’ve been looking for, for a long time in a top-six role. He’s a big body, plays physical, and brings a bit of emotion and swagger. He’s a good fit.”

Kane at 31. We wait.

Previously by Robin Brownlee