Evander Kane is one of the more interesting players in the NHL. Already a five-year veteran of the league at just 22 years old, his 30-goal season in 2011-12 and 17-goal output in the abridged 2012-13 campaign offered a glimpse of the great potential he possesses and in a lot of ways has already met. Quite clearly, he should be a cornerstone player for the Winnipeg Jets and he's under contract with the club for the next four years, but not everything is as sunny as it should be when it comes to the organization and its young star.
Kane has been the subject of multiple trade rumors for years and those rumors have only intensified this offseason. Part of that has to do with constant questions about Kane's maturity (c'mon people, he's 22) and another has to do with whether or not he really wants to be in Winnipeg at all. Kane's desire to be traded has never really been definitive, but it is the factor most widely believed to be fueling these rumors.
With a chance to clear the air during an interview on Vancouver radio station Team 1040, Kane didn't do much to quash the rumors.
Host Matt Sekeres: Evander do you want to play for the Winnipeg Jets anymore?
Kane: Well, I think I'm a Winnipeg Jet right now, and, you know, there's been speculation and rumors the three years since I got there. So, you know, we'll see what happens and we'll carry on as if I'm a Winnipeg Jet.
Host: There's not a yes in there, and some Jets fans might say, why doesn't he want to play for us? Or why isn't he absolutely fully on board for playing for us?... you're shaking your finger at me.
Kane: I'm training hard and getting ready for this season, and last summer I didn't have a full year of training due to some surgery I had, so I found it really important for me to start training early and get myself in the best shape possible for this season. So that's my focus."
So is that a no to the initial question? That kinda sounds like a no. If nothing else, it's noncommittal and that is likely making Jets fans and management squirm a bit.
The idea of Winnipeg trading Kane is something the team shouldn't even consider unless Kane is emphatic in his desire to leave town. And really, who could blame him if that's how he really felt?
Kane often bears the brunt of much of the criticism the team receives locally, with complaints about his immaturity and individualism. That said, he's the most electrifying talent on a team that doesn't have a whole lot of that and none coming soon.
The Jets did nothing in free agency and it may not have been for lack of trying. When competing with other markets for the services of top-end players, Winnipeg is a tough sell.
Should they lose Kane, the Jets lose the one forward they could build everything around. With little success in free agency, the Jets have to focus on drafting well and they've been off to a pretty good start in the Jets 2.0 era with Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba looking like high-impact players in the near future. But there's nothing about the Jets that suggests competitiveness in the very near future, particularly in the Central Division in which every team but the Jets (yes, even the Predators!) made a significant move over the last two weeks.
However, if Kane really does want out as some of his recent comments and other activities (like comically favoriting a tweet advocating he be traded to the Philadelphia Flyers) suggest, the Jets have to do whatever they can to get a massive return that will help them progress into the future.
Kane clearly doesn't want to come right out and say he doesn't want to be with the Jets any longer, but he's the type of player general managers should be targeting if there's even an inkling he's not long for Winnipeg.
With a $5.25 million cap hit for the next four years and at just 22 years old, great things should be ahead for Kane. He already has that 30-goal season in his back pocket and if he can stay healthy, it won't be his last.
This saga has gone on for just about as long as the Jets landed in Winnipeg. It seems like the only way it can end is -- in a word -- uncomfortably.