Kane, Winnipeg arriving at breaking point

Winnipeg Jets winger Evander Kane.

The NHL has seen two under-the-gun trades already this summer, and the hat trick might be complete soon.

The relationship between Evander Kane and the Winnipeg Jets eclipsed saga status some time ago, and it’s starting to look more like a forgone conclusion the Jets will trade the young left winger before the start of next season, just as a pair of disgruntled centres—Ryan Kesler and Jason Spezza—have already been moved by their former clubs.

Kane recently appeared on the radio station TEAM 1040 in his hometown of Vancouver, where questions about his standing in Winnipeg inevitably came up. Kane’s take was essentially, “I’m a Jet now, there’s been rumours for three years about me moving, we’ll see what happens.”

No matter how you want to interpret that, it’s a long way from, “I just couldn’t imagine playing somewhere else.”

This is just the latest development in a series of events—from Kane favouriting a tweet suggesting a trade to the Philadelphia Flyers to seemingly constant friction with former coach Claude Noel—that suggest divorce looms as a likely outcome. And when you get to the point where a relationship is beyond repair, the task then becomes minimizing damages.

Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is likely loathe to move Kane for all the reasons constantly cited in the media, namely that Kane doesn’t turn 23 until Aug. 2, already has a 30-goal season on his resume and is a pretty sweet mix of speed, strength and skill. Now add the fear Cheveldayoff will be hard-pressed to get market value for a player constantly linked to trade speculation, and you appreciate the man’s hesitancy.

Then again, at some point, enough is enough.

It’s increasingly obvious Kane’s heart is somewhere other than Manitoba and, good as he may be, there’s no need for the Jets to grovel. Certainly Winnipeg needs all the help it can get trying to crack the dauntingly tight Western Conference playoff scene, but having a player around who has no interest in being there—regardless of his talent level—probably just moves you further away from that goal.

What you really want to duck is a situation where hard feelings fester and things get unnecessarily drawn out. That was a priority for new Vancouver GM Jim Benning when he dealt Kesler. After realizing no home-run return was coming, Benning got the best deal possible with Anaheim and moved on with his day. Ottawa GM Bryan Murray held out a little longer, but the pot never sweetened and he dealt Spezza to Dallas rather than face the proposition of him starting a contentious training camp with the Senators.

Cheveldayoff actually entered the summer hinting he might break with precedent and make a blockbuster move, so what more motivation does he require?

And while the thought of trading a player like Kane—especially under the circumstance—is enough to turn a GM ill, a couple factors make it a touch more palatable.

Part of the reason there was an extremely limited market for Spezza and Kesler is because both players, thanks to modified no-trade clauses, could dictate a short list of places they’d go. And, really, the only teams interested in second-line centres firmly in Act II of their careers are clubs that believe they can win the Cup soon.

But you put a young, strong goal-scorer on the market, and everybody from rebuilding Buffalo to almost-there St. Louis should be making a call. Plus, the Jets have done a great job at the draft table in recent years, plucking defenceman Jacob Trouba and centre Mark Scheifele. Both players—especially Trouba—look capable of being franchise cornerstones, so if a Kane trade nets three B players but no A-plus guy, it’s not the end of the world.

Regardless, the longer this goes, the more Cheveldayoff’s priority should be looking around the league to find some players who can help Winnipeg, not hoping to retain one who—on the face of it, anyway—doesn’t care to be there.

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