32 Thoughts: Oilers making serious attempt to get Evander Kane

Mark Spector joined Sportsnet Central to discuss the Edmonton Oilers' pursuit of Evander Kane and if his off-ice issues will turn teams off from signing him.

• Carolina a possible suitor for Jakob Chychrun
• Canucks nearing decision on GM
• Trade rumour season about to pick up steam

Busy Tuesday, let’s get to it. First up, Edmonton and Evander Kane.

Oilers GM Ken Holland said Tuesday he believes in second chances. It would be more than that for Kane, and several teams stayed far away from him because of it. But others are in, and we’re determining who is serious and who isn’t. Word is Kane was doing zoom interviews with interested teams over the last 24 hours.

Edmonton is serious. If you watched Holland’s media conference on Tuesday, it’s not hard to see what he’s thinking. He doesn’t want to make panic trades. He doesn’t want to fire Dave Tippett. He prefers the answers come “from inside the room.”

He also knows missing the playoffs is not an option.

No, Evander Kane currently isn’t inside Edmonton’s room. But the Oilers don’t have to subtract worthwhile assets to get him. Not sure Alberta’s capital was Kane’s first choice, but he could do a lot worse than lining up with Connor McDavid at even-strength and on the power play.

They’re very much in play here, if not the lead horse.

Other teams I’ve wondered about are top contenders. Teams like Carolina and Tampa Bay. The Hurricanes and Lightning believe in their cultures and their leadership. And then there's another really good team like Florida potentially getting involved, especially because they'd rather have him than see the Lightning get him. When Jeff Marek mentioned last weekend that Boston’s been interested in Lawson Crouse for almost two years, another Eastern Conference exec said he was worried Crouse will end up in Tampa -- because he believes that’s the kind of player the Lightning are looking for. (Both are lefty shots.)

Kane undoubtedly believes a strong run on a contender will be beneficial for him. Might take a couple days, but we’re getting closer to a decision.


1. Holland all but confirmed what we’d heard last weekend, that Edmonton is not interested in dealing its 2022 first-round pick. He’d said earlier this season he would move the first if the Oilers were in a strong contender position, but that’s not the case right now. I think he’d need to believe they’d be picking somewhere around 25th or later, or be getting a good player with term, before reconsidering. The Oilers will lose a second- or a third-rounder to Chicago from the Duncan Keith deal, and their fourth went to New Jersey for Dmitry Kulikov.

2. When it comes to Kane’s termination grievance, there’s quiet confidence from the NHL/San Jose on one side, and Kane’s representatives/the NHLPA in the other corner. There are lawyers who like the NHL’s argument because it’s not Kane’s first violation, but also those who don’t think the case is strong enough. I’ve learned never to guess what an arbitrator will do, but almost everybody said there’s strong incentive for a settlement. When the extreme options are a win or a loss of $23M to either side, it’s quite a risk.

3. Major reason the NHLPA had to appeal this one: if it didn’t, any protocol violation could be grounds for contract termination.

4. There was some speculation that the Sharks would use the cleared cap room (at least for now) to lock-up Tomas Hertl long-term. All research indicates that leap is premature at this time.

5. Two teams you are going to hear in almost every trade rumour: Carolina and Colorado.

6. Marek mentioned Anaheim, Los Angeles and St. Louis in deep on Jakob Chychrun last weekend. All of those make sense, but that contract is right in the Hurricanes’ wheelhouse. Some teams also believe Arizona prefers the Eastern Conference, if possible.

7. It’s five in-person interviews remaining to determine the next GM of the Vancouver Canucks. Among the finalists are Pittsburgh’s Patrik Allvin, and Scott Mellanby, who recently resigned after almost 10 seasons in Montreal.

8. Montreal is paring down its list, while Anaheim isn’t that far along. The Ducks are casting a wide net -- along with at least three internal candidates (Martin Madden, Dave Nonis, Jeff Solomon).

9. When Los Angeles announced Marc Bergevin’s hiring, one source warned against “making what you think are logical assumptions.” Then came news (from John Hoven) that Kings GM Rob Blake is closing in on an extension. This does not preclude Bergevin from chasing open GM spots, and it allows him to keep his finger on the pulse. If nothing materializes, we’ll see how his role evolves.

10. Bob Clarke dropped bombs on Cam Janssen and Andy Strickland’s podcast, taking a big run at former Philadelphia GM Ron Hextall. If anything, that confirmed the huge divide between Hextall and the Flyers’ alumni -- a power struggle that played a major factor in Hextall’s firing. My main takeaway from the timing of Clarke’s comments is that the heat is on, and Comcast is deciding what direction the team should go. Clarke would want current GM Chuck Fletcher to rebuild the team if that’s the chosen path. By taking this route, he’s trying to make sure that happens. He’d do anything to defend someone he likes.

11. Asked about Clarke’s comments, one scout laughed, “It was Heiskanen, not Makar. Close enough.”

12. It’s been too long, but love doing games in Philadelphia. You’ll remember that when Patrick Kane scored to win the 2010 Stanley Cup, no one realized it was in. I was working rinkside then, standing in the Zamboni area with a monitor. As I watched the replay, several fans started yelling, “Is it in? Is it a goal?” When I nodded and said yes, what followed was some of the loudest, most creative swearing ever heard on Earth. The passion was amazing. Their love for the Flyers, both past and present.

Philadelphia’s upcoming scouting meetings are going to be intense. There will be deep conversations about both personnel and on-ice direction. However, it sure seems like the organization needs to work on something else -- re-engaging history. I couldn’t believe how many angry direct messages filled my inbox because what would have been Ed Snider’s 89th birthday was not recognized during last Thursday’s game against Pittsburgh. That follows many of those same fans feeling last November’s Flyers Hall of Fame induction was mishandled. There’s work to do here.

13. There hasn’t been a ton of trade talk because of COVID and cap constraints. That’s going to change in the next week or so. We are in scouting-meeting season, so targets will be identified. As one exec laughed, “Time to start reporting which scouts are in attendance.”

14. As Boston welcomes back Tuukka Rask, wonder if Max Domi makes any sense for the Bruins.

15. My sense on Dallas and John Klingberg has to do with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Klingberg will be 30 in August. Benn was 28 when his eight-year, $76M contract kicked in. Seguin was approaching 28 when his eight-year, $78.8M deal took effect. No one questions their will and/or desire to play. They’ve battled through a ton. Benn is still a monster when his body allows it. Seguin is still a dangerous offensive player when his body allows it. But I do think Dallas’ decision to not extend Klingberg has a lot to do with the injuries and body wear suffered by those two players. I’m not even convinced they were ridiculously far apart in discussions. But it got to a point where the gap couldn’t be bridged.

16. Many of you will read that and say, “Sound business decision.” No one should expect Klingberg to feel the same. When you’ve given 500 games to the team that drafted you, you’re hoping for a permanent marriage. It’s hard when you realize it’s extremely unlikely to happen. My guess is this plays out towards the trade deadline. If Dallas is a threat, how do they deal him without making themselves worse?

17. One of the reasons the Stars were so furious at the end of Saturday’s 2-1 loss to St. Louis: the bench was told Miro Heiskanen went down in the corner because he toe-picked on the 1-1 goal, not because he was held.

18. Anaheim claimed Lucas Elvenes on unconditional waivers from Vegas. Elvenes’ contract was to be terminated, and it was reported he had an offer in Sweden. I can’t find another example of such a player being taken. It’s an interesting play, because Elvenes has some fans who think he’s a bit of a sleeper. (EDIT: Thank you to readers Brian La Rose and Christian Pagnani, who pointed out Edmonton claimed goalie Niko Hovinen off unconditional waivers from Philadelphia, in 2013. Memory is the first thing to go when you get old.)

19. Detroit GM Steve Yzerman had a great line when newly hired Nicklas Lidstrom said, “I’m really excited to have this opportunity to join the team again, or the organization again, I should say.” Yzerman replied, “We can do the team thing too, if you want to talk about that.”

The most open-minded thing about Lidstrom’s hiring is that he’s staying in Sweden. Someone will tell me if I’m wrong, but I don’t recall anyone with such a high-level title as Vice-President of Hockey Operations of an NHL team based overseas. But when you can employ Lidstrom’s brain, you make concessions. There were some real good questions and answers in this availability. Lidstrom was asked if he thought of himself as GM somewhere down the road, and replied, “I haven’t thought that long-term at all.”

20. Yzerman was asked about all of the 2002 Stanley Cup Red Wings who have stayed in the game. “Don’t think I’m really surprised,” he said. “The majority of that group was really into hockey…You really have to love the game to be a part of it.” Kelly Hrudey tells a great story about Wayne Gretzky asking Kings’ players who their next five games were against. There’s definitely something to it.

21. These decisions aren’t easy in the craziness that is COVID, but it was weird to see Philadelphia practising Tuesday morning. The Hurricanes were steaming, as they were in town to play the Flyers, only to have it postponed less than 24 hours before puck drop. They wanted to practice themselves before going home in the afternoon, but Wells Fargo Arena was already converted to the basketball floor. My general rule in predicting games is if you have 16 skaters, you’re going to play. Not this time.

22. Agent Ritch Winter, who represents former Flame Mark Giordano and current one Andrew Mangiapane, had some interesting comments Monday on Sportsnet 960 with Eric Francis. Asked if he could see a situation where Calgary tries to re-acquire its former captain from Seattle, Winter replied, “I certainly think there’s a possibility…But that’s not something we control.” He added that he and Kraken GM Ron Francis have discussed Giordano’s future, but the defender’s $6.75M cap hit means any move might occur closer to the deadline. As for Mangiapane, Winter said his advice “would be to do a short-term deal…and then look at the landscape.” The winger can be an unrestricted free agent in July 2023.

23. Some teams have an idea of their new schedules. (Calgary GM Brad Treliving told Sportsnet 960’s Pat Steinberg that the Flames haven’t seen theirs.) But it sounds like there will be action on Monday, Feb. 7, two days after All-Star.

24. All-Star is still a go. The four captains (as selected by fan vote), the other 36 players and 32 “Last Men In” candidates will be announced Thursday at 6:45pm ET on Sportsnet. Voting for that category closes Jan. 17.

25. Winnipeg looked at the possibility of three home games in Saskatoon: this coming Saturday (which would have been against Ottawa), Jan. 25 (Florida) and Jan. 27 (Vancouver). There were several zoom meetings and conversations about what it would take, but there wasn’t enough momentum. For one thing, the Jets may have been responsible to pay for extra travel or arena upgrades (such as replay facilities). For another, Saskatchewan’s chief medical officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, said “this is not the time for any gatherings” the day the story broke. Look what’s happening with Novak Djokovic right now in Australia. No one who can approve such a move wants responsibility if the bleep hits the fan.

26. I didn’t mind the Jets searching for alternatives. What I see in that attempt is recognition that the Canadian teams are very concerned about financial damage, and that the rest of the league is, too. (It affects players as well, since it alters the payback schedule of money owed to the owners from last season.) Games on both sides of the border that were postponed between Christmas and New Year’s are some of highest-revenue earners of the season. I did ask if there was any talk of Canadian teams temporarily moving their home bases to the US, and was told “no” as of the end of last week. One exec asked if divorce-lawyer retainers would be included in per diems.

27. Who knows how things are going to look when the trade deadline hits 69 days from now (nice!), but at least one US-based rental has indicated at this time he won’t go to Canada under the current setup.

28. The Canadian women’s Olympic Team was named Tuesday afternoon, while the men are about a week away. It appears there is good news: that players on NHL contracts who are back in junior (Mason McTavish, for example) should be allowed to play. However, those in the AHL (Cole Perfetti) won’t. I heard Hockey Canada looked at some NHLers who weren’t getting a ton of playing time (Ottawa’s Michael del Zotto would be one) but that was forbidden.

29. One person very happy to watch Bruce Boudreau’s early Vancouver success is Russ Courtnall. Courtnall, who played 1,029 NHL games, attended his first training camp in 1983, months after being drafted by Toronto. That was Boudreau’s eighth and final season in the Maple Leafs’ organization, although he’d only play in AHL St. Catharines that year.

“I think they put me next to him in the dressing room on purpose,” Courtnall said Monday. “You know how it is in training camp. The Maple Leafs dress in their dressing room, while the rookies and minor-league veterans are across the hall. That’s where I was, and everyone in there wants to get to the other room.” Courtnall said there was no physical hazing, but some of the veterans tried to make life uncomfortable for him. “Bruce was so good for me. He’d tell me to ignore those guys. I don’t remember the names of any of the a--holes, but I sure remember Bruce.”

30. One of Marek’s crazy ideas is growing on me -- that a power play should be over if a shorthanded goal is scored. A true “penalty kill,” if you will. There’ve been two recent situations. On Dec. 19, Winnipeg led St. Louis 3-1 when Jordan Binnington took a delay-of-game penalty with 6:24 remaining in regulation. Niko Mikkola scored shorthanded 52 seconds later to cut it to 3-2. However, Paul Stastny countered at 14:44, giving the Jets a 4-2 win.

It’s a different -- and more exciting -- finish if Mikkola’s goal puts everyone back at five-on-five. Last Thursday, in that terrific Florida/Dallas game, the Panthers’ Maxim Mamin took a hooking penalty with six seconds remaining in the first period. Aleksander Barkov scored shorthanded early in the second to put Florida ahead 2-1, but Denis Gurianov tied it on the same power play. Much more time on the clock, but you get the idea. Marek is generally insane, but this is good.

31. Every expansion market needs people outside of the broadcast team who are willing to talk hockey. Brian Blessing definitely did that in Vegas (and beforehand in Buffalo). The outpouring of emotion for him says everything we need to know. Big loss for the hockey community.

32. From 1975-2006, Darwin Semotiuk and Larry Haylor coached football at Western. The Mustangs won 249 games and four Vanier Cups under their leadership. (Semotiuk eventually became athletic director.) I’ve said many times how beneficial covering the NBA Raptors was for me, but I truly began to learn at Western.

You can divide people into two camps: those who figure it out in high school and those who don’t. I definitely am the latter; still laughing about my teenage cluelessness. It was with my great co-workers at Western’s student newspaper, The Gazette, this phase of my life began. Where I learned to interview, to write, to navigate locker rooms, to understand how your words affect others and recognize the consequences for it.

Semotiuk loved telling a story about his first Vanier in 1976, how they were in trouble at the half against Acadia and saved by Western students storming the field -- providing coaches and players extra time to make defensive adjustments that led to victory.

The first thing I remember about Haylor was one of the rare times he called me, wanting a story because he was upset a defensive lineman named Chris Walker was not selected in the CFL draft. He felt Walker was the kind of player a Canadian league should be investing in. Another time, I quoted an NFL scout saying wide receiver Tyrone Williams had good size and Haylor said I should have asked what “great size” is for a wide receiver, because Williams is six-foot-six.

There are a lot of administrators, coaches and players I thought about this week as Semotiuk and Haylor, both 76, died two days apart: Chris Bean, Craig Boydell, Warren Bullock, Brad Campbell, Karen Danylchuk, Glenn Eastland, Darryl and Duane Forde, Pat Gallo, Peter Glaab, Doug Hayes, Todd Humphrey, Pete Jeffrey, Catherine Jonkhans, Mike Kelly, Mike Koladich, John Leclair (the quarterback, not the Flyer), Rich Leslie, Ildi Lubke, Pat Mahon, Greg Marshall, Barry Martinelli, Michelle Mommersteeg, Brendan Noonan, John Stiefelmayer, Tim Tindale, Helen and Peter Vandebovenkamp, Tyrone Williams. Undoubtedly, I’m forgetting some. A lot of memories where life really began for me. Semotiuk and Haylor taught me a ton, and I’m forever grateful.

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