Will the Winnipeg Jets trade Evander Kane this summer?
It may be the most asked question around the Jets, but the best answer is no one, including GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, can predict what offers may show up in Philadelphia at the draft next week.
For some, trading Kane might be out of the question, but when a team misses the playoffs for seven straight seasons it must consider change. Kane, because of his potential marketability, is a popular target for such discussion.
What's a 22-year-old power forward who scored 30 goals two seasons ago worth in today's market? More than Cheveldayoff is likely to be offered unless he's willing to do a deal for futures, and the Jets have to be thinking more about the now than ever before. Making a trade including Kane is unlikely.
Do the Jets want to trade Kane? That's a different question, and the answer seems to be no.
Management believes Kane has yet to reach his full potential and wouldn't want to watch him score 40 or more goals in a different uniform.
What does it matter if he scores 40 somewhere else if he's not going to do it with the Jets? This statement presumes the Jets will never find the right centre to play with Kane and provide him the fit he needs to succeed. Maybe a season with Mark Scheifele in the middle and Blake Wheeler on the right side is in order before reaching such a conclusion.
Cheveldayoff won't be making a move just for the sake of saying he's conducted a trade. On the surface, at least, he seems impervious to the braying of outsiders. The "Buy out Ondrej Pavelec" screeching may or may not have reached his ears, but Tuesday the Jets were asked if they'd be exercising their compliance buyout options and simply responded with a no.
Scoring is the hardest thing to do or acquire in hockey. The Jets would need to have an abundance of scoring to comfortably use Kane as a trading chip. They don't have that. So they have to get scoring in return. It's unlikely a trading partner is going to offer the Jets a legitimate 30-goal man as part of a package.
Being hard on Kane is a repeated theme in this space. Looking back with the benefit of time, what are Kane's crimes? The off-ice stuff has been at times juvenile and not my taste, but who is the arbiter of such things?
The one thing that stands out as troublesome is his treatment of head coach Claude Noel last season. Noel was on a thin branch, Kane knew this, and he went ahead and challenged the coach's authority in the media over a healthy scratch. It was the end of Noel as head coach of the Jets and, regardless of your view of the man as a coach, he didn't deserve Kane's mutiny.
But just like Winnipeg hockey observers can grow and become a little more nonplussed over the affairs of Evander, so can the player. When Paul Maurice made him a healthy scratch last spring for being late to a team function, Kane took it like a man.
A 22-year-old with no playoff games and one season in five with more than 20 goals should be focused on his end of the deal and not decisions made by the coach. Maybe Kane has figured this out or Maurice's pedigree makes it clear messing with the boss is a no-win.
Kane is both precocious and brash. For some, that's been hard to accept. There's not enough of a track record to go along with some of the entitlement. So what? A middle-aged sportswriter not always buying Kane's act doesn't factor for even a second into the thoughts of Cheveldayoff.
The bottom line on trading Kane, or any member of Cheveldayoff's team, has to be about benefitting the organization. Cheveldayoff isn't going to be offered a roster player of equal value. Teams are going to try to pry Kane away from Winnipeg with packages of picks and prospects.
For a fan base already screaming about the here and now, making a deal for tomorrow would be untenable.
The other side of the equation is maybe we've seen the best of Kane and he's never going to be a consistent 30-goal guy. Under that premise, trading Kane now would seem to be the right move if the return is strong. There's little evidence, however, to suggest Kane won't continue to improve and become a better and more valuable player.
Kane is flawed in that he doesn't see the ice very well and his goal production to date has been inconsistent. He might argue the same can be said of his linemates, and it's true Kane has been forced to play with a bit of a dog's breakfast during his three seasons in Winnipeg. He's also been an infrequent member of the No. 1 power-play unit. If Kane is to grow he needs both more opportunity and higher-quality opportunity.
Moving Kane would be premature. It's time to find out precisely what he is as a player and how far he can grow. Install him as the left wing on the top line.
Cheveldayoff will want to see if Kane can soar with these Jets before booking him on another flight out of town.