On Tuesday night in Tampa, Edmonton Oilers forward Evander Kane suffered one of the scariest injuries imaginable in a hockey game. Lightning forward Pat Maroon stepped on Kane’s wrist and cut him with his skate blade, a cut that stopped everything in the rink as Kane skated off for immediate medical attention.
The good news is Kane found good, potentially life saving support from the medical staffs available in the rink and at a local hospital. The bad news: he isn’t going to be back on the ice any time soon.
Kane, 31, joined the Oilers last year after a contentious departure from the San Jose Sharks that wasn’t fully settled until late this summer. But his off-ice and personal issues didn’t impact his play with the Oilers, where he’s made an immediate impact with 27 goals in 57 games.
In fact, his impact was significant enough that Edmonton signed him to a four-year deal this past summer that carries a $5.125 million cap hit. He now joins goaltender Mike Smith and defenseman Oscar Klefbom on LTIR for the Oilers, giving them almost $8.7 million LTIR cap space to work with this season (according to CapFriendly).
The issue now facing the Oilers is replacing one of the better power forwards in the NHL. And they need to do that with the knowledge that, with Kane, they were under .500 at home (4-5-0) and in fourth place in the Pacific Division. And even with two of the most lethal scorers in the game today in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the Oilers only have a plus-four goal differential.
Edmonton’s secondary scoring hasn’t existed all season. Behind a top six of McDavid, Draisaitl, Kane, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zach Hyman, the Oilers don’t have a forward with more than four points. And Blackhawks fans know too well the promotion of Mattias Janmark isn’t going to solve their issues.
What makes this an intriguing issue in the Western Conference at this moment in time is the way the season has started. Teams many expected to be significantly better — the Avs, Wild, Blues, Preds, Flames and Canucks — are all playing surprisingly mediocre hockey. Indeed, the Blues are probably the worst team in the entire NHL right now.
The playoff picture in the Western Conference is completely up for grabs — to the point the Blackhawks are a legit possibility if they can sustain their early season play. So a major injury not only puts pressure on the Oilers to replace him, but it also opens the door for other teams to see this as an opportunity to make a move to maneuver their way up the standings.
Trade winds don’t start blowing with much fervor in the NHL until at least Thanksgiving in the United States. And that’s two weeks away. But this injury — and Kane’s timeline for a return being months away — may accelerate the phone calls for something of more substance happening.
The way the Blackhawks are playing it’s hard to see a scenario where they would start selling this early, especially when the front office has talked so much about the importance of establishing the right culture in the room and every indication is that head coach Luke Richardson and his staff are doing precisely that with the players on the roster. But if the right deal presented itself, whether it comes from Edmonton or elsewhere, it would be hard to ignore the right opportunity.