Talk about leaving it to the last minute.
Just three days after I wrote an article for Illegal Curve titled “Why hasn’t Evander Kane signed yet?” and literally minutes before the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement was set to expire, the Winnipeg Jets announced late Saturday night (around 10:00 pm CST) that they had signed Evander Kane to a six-year, $31.5 million contract, ending weeks and weeks of conjecture and speculation.
Kane’s multi-year deal carries an annual cap hit of $5.25 million dollars and now makes him the highest player on the team (Tobias Enstrom will make $3.75 million this season, but when his five-year contract extension begins in 2013’14, he will make an average of $5.75 million dollars, thus becoming the highest paid player on the team)
Why this is a good signing for the Winnipeg Jets
Lock up your best young forward for the next six years- It is undeniable that Evander Kane is the most talented forward on the Jets. Kane has the tools that make coaches gush; he’s lightning quick, he possesses a tremendous shot and he goes hard to the net. Kane is coming off a career season in Winnipeg (30 goals, 27 assists, 57 points in 74 games) and is on the cusp of being a 40+/season goal scorer. By signing Kane to a six-year deal, Winnipeg ensures that they get Kane for arguably the best part of his career. With this deal, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff also gets Kane for two of his UFA-eligible years.
Show that world class talent wants to play (and stay) in Winnipeg- Everyone has heard the ridiculous criticism directed towards the city of Winnipeg over the years. “It’s too cold”, “It’s too small”, “Players don’t want to play there”. Well, now that Kane, Tobias Enstrom (5 years) and Ondrej Pavelec (5 years) have signed long-term contracts to stay in Winnipeg, the Jets have shown that players DO want to play in Winnipeg and have much admiration for the city. Kane exemplifies this best as there have been countless rumours that he doesn’t like playing here.
Solidify a core group of players- The Jets now have five players under contract for the next four years: Kane, Andrew Ladd (4 years), Dustin Byfuglien (4 years), Tobias Enstrom (5 years) and Ondrej Pavelec (5 years). Signing Kane gives the Jets a bonafide scoring winger to go along with a talented group of veteran players. The next “core group” signings on the docket for Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will be Zach Bogosian and Blake Wheeler, who are both in the final year of two-year contracts signed last summer. It is clear that Evander Kane is the key piece of this core group and signing him will help help keep Bogo and Wheeler here as well.
Why this is a bad signing for the Winnipeg Jets
Kane waited until the last possible minute to sign this deal– On Saturday’s Illegal Curve Hockey Show we were discussing Kane’s contract discussion and neither Drew, Richard or myself thought that Kane was going to sign on Saturday. And why would we? After offering Kane a six-year, $29 million dollar deal back in July, two months passed with basically no indication that Kane was prepared to sign with the Jets. It is somewhat disconcerting that Kane waited until September 15th to sign this contract as it leaves the impression that he may have been exploring other options or might not be genuine in his desire to be in Winnipeg.
Winnipeg now has $57,243,959 committed for the 2012’13 NHL season– According to capgeek.com, the Jets have $12,956,042 of cap space remaining after the Kane signing which ranks them 20th in terms of Salary Cap Payroll. Kane’s cap hit of $5.25 million is not cheap and puts him in an elite group of young forwards with the likes of Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs ($5.4 million cap hit) and John Tavares of the New York Islanders ($5.5 million cap hit) The point here is that even though signing Kane is good, it has come at a cost. Because the Jets are in the development stage of the hockey team cycle, they still want to be a lower spending team-which they currently are- but because of the uncertainty surrounding the NHL lockout, the Jets may have to trim some payroll later this season.
Kane is a limited offensive player– Evander Kane has size and skill in abundance but he has still not developed into a complete NHL player. And yes, I know he is still 20 years old but in order for him to live up to the 6-year, $31.5 million contract he has just signed, he is going to have to turn into more than just a one trick pony. The reality is that Kane does not have a playmaking element to his game or a significant defensive component to his game and that will have to change before my opinion changes.
For Illegal Curve, I’m Ezra Ginsburg.
Follow Ezzy on Twitter @ICEzzyG