Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
Left Wing--Evander Kane
DOB: August 2, 1991 (age, 24)
Draft: 2009, 4th overall
How acquired: Trade with the Winnipeg Jets, February 11, 2015
Last contract signed: 2012--6yr./$31.5M
Final year of contract: 2017-18
2015-16 Stats: 65 games, 20 goals, 15 assists, 35 points, -14
What we wrote preseason: Before all the collateral off-ice incidents entered into the equation during his professional career, scouts were drooling over Evander Kane's powerforward frame and ultra on-ice competitive nature. It was something not lost on Buffalo GM Tim Murray, a long-time scout himself, when he traded for Kane. "You watch him play on the ice," said Murray at the time of the trade, "he plays hard. He plays in traffic. He doesn’t play a perimeter game; he plays a heavy game. He scores goals from around the net. He plays the game right. He finishes checks. He’s a good fighter. I don’t know how much I want him fighting. That’s his character on the ice."
As for the off-ice drama that accompanied Kane, Murray stated a well-hidden truism in sports, "I can tell you the best of the very best players have warts, but I can’t talk about them."
Such is the dichotomy of Kane.
What we wrote mid-season: "missed 10 games due to injury but has kicked it up with six goals and three assists in his last 13 games. Needs to keep his north/south aggressive game rolling. He and Eichel on the same line hasn't been a total disaster, but try connecting the same poles of two different magnets."
Impressions on his play this year: You know what they say about leopards and spots, and the first half of his first season in Buffalo was his pro career in a nutshell--promise, inury and, of course, off-ice incidents. But a funny thing happened on the way to lynching him and Murray, Kane changed everyone's perception of him with a selfless act in his return to Winnipeg. With an open net in front of him and the opportunity to shove it in the face of the entire city and the Jets organization, he instead fed rookie Sam Reinhart who hit the empty net for his first career hattrick.
Although another event a month later--oversleeping after hanging at NBA All-Star Weekend and being suspended by the team--would prick the aura of a complete Saul-to-Paul transformation, there's reason to believe that Kane may choose to further separate himself from his off-ice image and focus his energies more on the ice. And there's the rub.
Questions moving forward: There's a duality in Kane that will always be there, the question is, how much can he keep his off-ice image, and the baggage that comes along with it, in check? And because he plays a rugged north/south game, what can be done to minimize injury without compromising his powerforward game? He has all the skills to become a perennial 25-30 goal scorer, but can he find that happy medium between selfish (the want/need to score) and selfless (the need to incorporate his teammates into the play) to attain that standard?