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Free Agency Preview: Evander Kane will test the open market as he and the Oilers are nowhere close on contract talks

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Photo credit:Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports
Cam Lewis
4 months ago
We’re just a few days away from free agency opening up and there’s still no clarity on the Evander Kane situation.
Kane joined the Oilers in January after having his contract terminated by the San Jose Sharks. He fit with the team seamlessly and scored 22 goals in 43 games in the regular season and then exploded with 13 goals in 15 playoff games.
The NHL Players’ Association filed a grievance on Kane’s behalf when the Sharks terminated his deal but no conclusion has been reached yet. Kane was unavailable in May because of Edmonton’s playoff run and the independent arbitrator brought on by the league to handle the case has been mysteriously unavailable through June and early July.
The difficulty here is the arbitrator could rule that the Sharks didn’t have grounds to terminate Kane’s deal, in which case he would again become a member of the Sharks with three years left on his contract at $7 million. So if a team signs Kane in free agency and then Kane wins the case, the contract he signed would be voided.
It’s certainly a unique situation and it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.
The Oilers have expressed an interest in re-signing Kane but the two sides are apparently nowhere close to reaching a deal. While they now have the cap space to sign him to a deal at the $7 million annual figure he’s reportedly looking for, there are obstacles to consider before bringing him back.
Kane is turning 31 years old in August and power forwards who play a physically-demanding style don’t tend to age well. The Oilers also have restricted free agents to re-sign and other areas on their roster to improve, so finding a less expensive option to replace Kane’s offence is probably the right move.
Let’s go through what the free-agent market for forwards looks like this summer and who would be a good fit for the Oilers…

Edmonton Oilers forward depth chart…

  • Centre: Connor McDavid (UFA in 2026), Leon Draisaitl (UFA in 2025), Ryan McLeod (RFA), Derek Ryan (UFA in 2023), Devin Shore (UFA in 2023), Brad Malone (UFA in 2024), Noah Philp (RFA in 2023). 
  • Left Wing: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (UFA in 2029), Zach Hyman (UFA in 2028), Warren Foegele (UFA in 2024), Dylan Holloway (RFA in 2024), Tyler Benson (RFA), Raphael Lavoie (RFA in 2023), James Hamblin (RFA in 2024), Carter Savoie (RFA in 2025), Matvei Petrov (RFA in 2025). 
  • Right Wing: Kailer Yamamoto (RFA), Jesse Puljujarvi (RFA), Seth Griffith (UFA in 2024), Xavier Bourgault (RFA in 2025), Tyler Tullio (RFA in 2025).

Forwards on the free-agent market…

  • Johnny Gaudreau: 29 years old, 82 games in 2021-22, 115 points.
  • Nazem Kadri: 32 years old, 71 games in 2021-22, 87 points.
  • Claude Giroux: 35 years old, 75 games in 2021-22, 65 points.
  • Andre Burskovsky: 27 years old, 80 games in 2021-22, 61 points.
  • David Perron: 34 years old, 67 games in 2021-22, 57 points. 
  • Ryan Strome: 29 years old, 74 games in 2021-22, 54 points
  • Andrew Copp: 28 years old, 72 games in 2021-22, 53 points.
  • Phil Kessel: 35 years old, 82 games in 2021-22, 52 points.
  • Valeri Nichushkin: 27 years old, 62 games in 2021-22, 52 points.
  • Vincent Trochek: 29 years old, 81 games in 2021-22, 51 points.
  • Ondrej Palat: 31 years old, 77 games in 2021-22, 49 points.
  • Paul Stastny: 36 years old, 71 games in 2021-22, 45 points.
  • Nino Niederreiter: 30 years old, 75 games in 2021-22, 44 points.
  • Evan Rodrigues: 29 years old, 82 games in 2021-22, 43 points.
  • Evgeni Malkin: 36 years old, 41 games in 2021-22, 42 points. 
  • Rickard Rakell: 29 years old, 70 games in 2021-22, 41 points. 
  • Max Domi: 27 years old, 72 games in 2021-22, 39 points.
  • Evander Kane: 31 years old, 43 games in 2021-22, 39 points.
  • Frank Vatrano: 28 years old, 71 games in 2021-22, 32 points. 
  • Ilya Mikheyev: 28 years old, 71 games in 2021-22, 32 points. 
  • Sam Gagner: 33 years old, 81 games in 2021-22, 31 points. 
  • Ryan Donato: 26 years old, 74 games in 2021-22, 31 points. 
  • Calle Jarnkrok: 31 years old, 66 games in 2021-22, 30 points. 
Kane scored at a 40-goal pace for the Oilers after he joined the team in January and the team isn’t going to be able to replace that production by simply bringing in another player. Instead, the move for the Oilers will be to spread things around and improve the quality of the forward group by adding multiple players.
The free-agent market for forwards is much deeper than the market for goaltenders and defencemen, as there’s a nice combination of top-level talent seeking large paydays, quality mid-level players who won’t break the bank, and reclamation or change-of-scenery projects who could also be had on shorter-term deals.
One name already attached to the Oilers is veteran Claude Giroux, who’s going Stanley Cup chasing as his career winds down. While Giroux is 35 years old, he can certainly still play, as he scored 65 points in 75 games between the Flyers and Panthers last season. The nice thing about Giroux for the Oilers is that, given his age, the team likely won’t have to commit more than two years on a contract.
Another name that makes sense for the Oilers is Dylan Strome, a former Erie Otter teammate of Connor McDavid who will be on the open market as the Blackhawks have reportedly opted to not give him a qualifying offer. Strome hasn’t lived up to his expectation as a No. 3 overall pick but he’s also played for two terrible organizations, the Coyotes and Blackhawks, in his career, so he could break out in a better environment.
Players like Giroux and Strome can replace the offence that Kane provided, but the Oilers will also surely be looking to replace his physical edge as well considering Zack Kassian was dumped last week and the team doesn’t have anybody in the enforcer role right now.
There are quite a few balls in the air right now when it comes to Edmonton’s forward group but the free-agent market features quite a few options for the team to explore. While Kane was great for the Oilers down the stretch and in the playoffs, the team is better off not sinking all of their eggs into one basket.

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