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NHL

Evander Kane Laces Up In Purgatory

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 15: Evander Kane #9 of the San Jose Sharks waits for a faceoff in the second period of a game against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena on March 15, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Golden Knights defeated the Sharks 2-1. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Evander Kane’s slow-motion exile has now taken him all the way to … well, the other side of the Sharks’ training facility, where the Barracuda, San Jose’s American Hockey League affiliate, roam. It’s a growing facility that will boast the largest square footage of any such facility west of the Mississippi, and among its least heralded features is the longest hallway on earth.

It is the one that separates Kane from the San Jose Sharks, his team until the razor wire he and his career walked finally gave way and sent him to the Bizarro World. He is an NHL-level talent with an AHL address and no immediately discernible path from the second back to the first. His curriculum vitae looks like a salvage yard:

  • A bankruptcy-level gambling problem;
  • A volatile level of marital discord with his now-ex-wife Anna that reached past accusations of domestic violence and sexual assault to the weirder (and more damaging to other teams’ sensibilities) charge of betting on Sharks and other NHL games (dismissed by the NHL);
  • Using a fake vaccination card to enter Canada and skirt league COVID protocols (which got him a 21-game suspension);
  • Having a lousy relationship with an unspecified but considerable number of teammates (which he semi-denied in an interview with ESPN’s chief hockey elf Greg Wyshynski); 
  • Worst of all from a mobility standpoint, a $7 million cap hit and a restrictive no-trade clause that allows him to be moved to only three undisclosed teams. (One strong rumor suggests that those teams are Buffalo, Winnipeg, and Vancouver, two of which have had and traded him away in the past, but that would be universe-bending madness, right?)

Oh, and there’s one other oil leak. Sharks general manager Doug Wilson is away from the team on an unspecified medical leave, leaving any decisions about Kane and the hallway to longtime assistant general manager Joe Will. All this has rendered him simultaneously unplayable, untradeable, and unfireable. He can only be a Barracuda—a $28-million-with-three-more-years-after-this Barracuda.

In sum, this is a fresh level of hell in a year that has discovered enter sub-basements of it. The Sharks gambled on his talent and got that, but at a cost that essentially turns his obvious skills into roadside skulls, and while Kane has been as promised on the ice, he has been as warned off it. To call this relationship toxic is to render a tiresome cliche colossally inadequate. This ends well only if it ends, and frankly there seem to be few outside parties willing to slap team logos on Hazmat suits to make that happen. They see what we see: one man, a hundred land mines. Kane is San Jose’s problem, and San Jose is Kane’s.

Anyway, he’s back as a Barracuda in odd standing, and as a side matter is a profound conundrum for ‘Cuda coach Roy Sommer, who has been in the job for 22 of the last 23 years and has surely seen nothing even close to resembling this. Whether Kane is a man victimized by demon-management, or whether the Sharks have put themselves in a preposterous roster-management vise because they thought they could repair his damage, is all a matter for the flower of Canadian documentarians, but we do know this much: That new ice palace in San Jose has not only added two extra ice sheets to its already prodigious inventory, but the hallway equivalent of the CERN large hadron collider, with all the distance and massive radiation that implies. Evander Kane is a Barracuda, and neither he nor they are going to enjoy the way this plays out until a place surfaces that will allow him to play his way in.