EDMONTON — With Glenn Anderson’s No. 9 hanging from the rafters, the early line is that Evander Kane will wear No. 91 for the Edmonton Oilers.
Add another digit — 911 — and you will have perfectly encapsulated Kane’s arrival here in Edmonton, where tensions have reached emergency levels with the team spinning its wheels for yet another season of Connor McDavid’s precious tenure.
Kane’s is a career that has careened down the National Hockey League like an ambulance down Yonge Street, 769 games played with the siren blaring, the red strobe lights engaged.
Meanwhile in Edmonton, Holland’s project is lying face down on a snowy sidewalk. He’s three years into this and he has not addressed the most important position in the sport — goaltending — while his forward ranks are thin and soft, two areas Kane will help with.
Behind the bench, Dave Tippett goes to his two superstars more than any coach plays any other forwards in the game today. He is three years into this thing in Edmonton, and even a head coach who had Mike Ribiero and Sean Avery in Dallas is somehow on board with Kane, so desperate for success has Tippett become.
It's an emergency in Edmonton today, so why not make a bedfellow of the perpetual problem child Kane? There is always crisis in Kane’s world, whether putting out the flames means ridding your roster of him, or today, where the 911 call goes out and Kane arrives, ready to save that kitten from the tree in Edmonton.
Somehow, while the NHL tried to discern whether Kane falsified his COVID status for the second time in a calendar year, he became as welcome in Edmonton’s dressing room as he was ostracized from San Jose’s, greeted by players who came here on the promise of success who have instead endured seven- and six-game losing streaks already this season — with the halfway mark still three games away.
It's time to win in Edmonton. Frankly, if Genghis Khan had wheels and a decent wrist shot, he’d be welcome here too.
“Obviously Evander Kane is a good player. A big, strong power forward who is hard to play against,” defenceman Duncan Keith said Thursday morning. “Any time you add a player like that, a good player, you’d be excited about that. We’d be happy to have him, as players. Excited to have him join the group and help us out.”
The Kane signing, we are to understand, is Connor McDavid approved, a stamp that carries much weight here. The player could have more baggage than the Kardashians on a ski trip, but if McDavid wants him then hand that man a pen and a contract.
And on the ice, maybe that’s OK for the remainder of the 2021-22 season. Kane showed in San Jose, when he was dealt as a pending UFA at the deadline in 2018, that he can walk a straight line while primping for a new deal, giving the Sharks nine goals and 14 points in the final 17 games of the season plus some decent playoff production.
The mistake, history tells us, was made that following July, when GM Doug Wilson — seduced by Kane’s game and temporary self-control — inked the big left-winger to a seven-year, $49-million deal. The same deal they voided — that remains in dispute — after just three seasons.
So, here’s the question:
Can Holland be the smart GM who milks the production from this player while Kane auditions for the next contract, but have the self-control to let him seek his next contract elsewhere come July?
We think Holland can be that GM.
But what about if Kane and McDavid forge some chemistry? What happens if McDavid asks why we’re not re-signing Kane to that three- or four-year deal, come July?
Can Holland win that negotiation? Of that we are not so sure.
The eloquent Zach Hyman, the very picture of decency among NHLers today, stumbled on his words when asked about Kane on Thursday. A published author whose thoughts are wise and to whom words come quickly suddenly got a case of the “uhs” and “ums” when trying to formulate his thoughts on Kane.
“Um, I guess we’ll see,” Hyman began. “If he’s a part of our team, then, um, it’s going to be… It’s going to be exciting for us to have a player like that, I would say. He’ll be a part of our team, if he’s a part of our team.”
He’ll be part of our team, if he’s part of our team.
That means the Oilers players will open the door and welcome the player, the way their colleagues did in Buffalo and San Jose. It’s simply the way hockey players are.
But when the door opens and Kane arrives, sirens blaring, what else enters your dressing room?
Aye, there’s the rub.