Despite the bevy of off-ice concerns that accompany Evander Kane, stemming from his actions this season as well as years prior, Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid believes his team's partnership with the embattled forward can be a fruitful one for all involved.
"I think it's important we acknowledge that there have been some issues," McDavid said during his post-game comments on Thursday. "But he's coming in and we trust Kenny [Ken Holland, the Oilers' general manager], we trust the leadership and the group. We have some older guys that don't wear letters that are a huge piece of that room. We think he can come in and he can help us on the ice."
The Oilers officially announced they had signed Kane partway through Thursday's game, a 3-2 win, against the Nashville Predators.
Terms of the agreement were not disclosed by the club, but Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman previously reported that the contract would be worth $750,000 in salary and $625,000 in signing bonus, which means a cap hit of about $2.1 million. Friedman added that the contract has a full no-movement clause.
Prior to the deal being struck, McDavid was consulted about the possibility of Kane's addition.
"[Holland] does a great job of keeping an open line of communication and he's very good to his players," McDavid said. "He's been very good to us, and we had a conversation about it. We fully trust [Holland] and his decision-making in putting together a roster."
Though the exact timing of the announcement was unexpected, the substance of it wasn't, marking the end to a weekslong saga which culminated in an NHL investigation into whether or not Kane had breached COVID-19 protocols during cross-border travel in his time with the San Jose Sharks organization.
That investigation, which ultimately found "insufficient evidence" to conclusively determine a violation knowingly occurred, centred on Kane testing positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 21 and then flying to Vancouver on Dec. 29. At that time, Kane would have still been in the 10-day AHL COVID-19 protocol.
It wasn't the first COVID-19 protocol-related issue Kane was at the centre of this season. Before training camps began, Kane was suspended for 21 games for the use of a fake COVID-19 vaccination card.
For his part, Oilers head coach Dave Tippett said he wasn't concerned about Kane's off-ice behaviour, pointing to the team's leadership group as a reason to believe the future wouldn't mirror the past.
"It's on everybody," Tippett said. "It's on him, it's on us [the coaches], it's on the leadership group, it's on everybody. You have to welcome the guy and see where you're at with everything. The conversations I had with him this week, he was in a very good frame of mind."
The sentiment was largely echoed by leaders on them Oilers themselves.
Darnell Nurse, an alternate captain for the club, made special note of the growth of the leadership group itself as a cause for optimism.
"I'd say over the course of the years as our leadership group has gotten older, and more established in the league, there's a culture we're starting to create around the room," Nurse said, when asked how the Oilers' internal leadership could help set standards for players to adhere to. "The thing about when you have a good team and good culture is you can bring players from the outside and drive them into that culture, and let them embrace it."
To the extent that reaching out to Kane and bringing him into the Oilers' culture can start with conversations, the process was already underway before the ink on the deal dried.
Kane and McDavid had spoken, the Oilers captain said, though he didn't divulge many details of what was discussed.
"We had a conversation like anyone when we're looking to add a piece," McDavid said. "I had a really good conversation and explained to him we're a team that is looking to go on a run and, obviously, if he can come in and add to that in any way possible, then that's what we're looking for. He was great at acknowledging there's maybe going to be some backlash.
"And I think it's a good opportunity for both sides. For him to come in and re-establish himself in the NHL, and for us to add a player of his calibre. I think it's a good opportunity for both sides."
The backlash over Kane's signing, of course, does not exclusively stem from his COVID-19 protocol issues.
Earlier in the year, the NHL also investigated allegations of domestic assault made by Anna Kane, his estranged wife, in a divorce filing, ultimately saying they "could not be substantiated."
Anna Kane also said Evander Kane had bet on NHL games, including ones he played in with the Sharks, influencing their outcomes for his own financial benefit. The NHL's investigation into those claims did not find evidence he had bet on hockey games.
The 30-year-old Kane had 22 goals and 22 assists for 44 points in 56 games last season for the Sharks. Kane also has played for the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise and Buffalo since being drafted by the Thrashers fourth overall in 2009.
It was not immediately clear when Kane might take to the ice for the Oilers, and will largely hinge on the status of his conditioning. He'll take part in a press conference on Friday at 11 a.m. ET / 9 a.m. MT.
"We'll get a chance to spend some time with him, see where he's at, see where he thinks he's at conditioning-wise and he'll come on the road and we'll get a feel for where he's at," Tippett said. "He's played some games this year in the American League, and I know he's been skating hard for the last week. ...You get him on the ice and see where he's at and evaluate from there."