That the Vancouver Canucks are interested in acquiring Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane, who hails from Vancouver originally and played his major junior hockey locally with the Giants, is becoming more apparent as the reports mount.
Kane was in the eye of a storm of controversy last week when he was a healthy scratch for a game against the Canucks following an incident with teammates. He underwent surgery on an injured shoulder at the end of the week and it sure seems as if his Jets tenure is at an end.
Though Kane is done for the year, it’s possible that Winnipeg could trade him before the deadline. While the Canucks are reportedly one of the teams currently holding down a playoff spot that would still be eager to acquire Kane before the March 2nd NHL trade deadline, they’re reluctant to meet Winnipeg’s asking price, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.
Read past the jump.
In a piece over at TSN.ca McKenzie recapped the latest developments on the Kane trade front at length. Vancouver played a very prominent role the discussion:
There are three current playoff teams – Vancouver, Calgary and to a far lesser extent Washington — who have legitimate, if varying, levels of interest in Kane as a pre-deadline acquisition.
Yes, it’s counter intuitive. A playoff bound team potentially giving up player or players off its roster now for a player who can’t play until the fall. But the Canucks, Flames and Capitals have thought about it or would at least like to explore that possibility; Kane intrigues them that much.
Vancouver would be at the top of that list.
The Canucks want to make the playoffs, make no mistake. But the new regime of general manager Jim Benning also knows as important as it is to stay competitive and strive for playoffs, there’s a long-range vision, too, and getting a 23-year-old Kane fits into that plan.
The rub, though, is Winnipeg is sure to want a package that includes one of the Canucks’ best young prospects – centre Bo Horvat and/or Jake Virtanen – and that’s a non-starter for Vancouver. Is there a package that includes a Canuck roster player and a different prospect (Jared McCann, for example) that might intrigue the Jets?
If Canucks general manager Jim Benning manages to land Kane for a roster player and Jared McCann that would qualify as pure larceny. So cross your fingers, but don’t hold your breath.
There’s been a good deal of chatter in our comments section over the past week about what a Kane return would look like, and if the Canucks even have the pieces to complete such a transaction. With Jake Virtanen and Bo Horvat’s names presumably being leaked by somebody, we may have our answer.
As for what Kane’s ultimate value is, that will be determined by more than just what Winnipeg is looking for – it’ll also be determined by what other teams are willing to offer them. McKenzie suggests that the Jets would want Sam Bennett from the Flames, a price Calgary is unlikely to pay (and which would exceed the value of a package built around Horvat or Virtanen significantly).
The Capitals meanwhile have way more young NHL players to build a package around (Tom Wilson, Evgeni Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky), so if they’re in on the bidding, it’s tough to see Vancouver keeping up.
This brings us back to a discussion of what an ultimate Kane trade will look like.
If the trade is completed for a player like Horvat – a young NHL roster player – then the deal will look somewhat more like the trade that sent Bobby Ryan to Ottawa in exchange for a young NHL roster player (Jakob Silfverberg), a decent prospect (Stefan Noesen) and a 1st-round pick. If it’s a package built around a pure prospect like Virtanen, it’ll be more closely resemble the deal that sent Kyle Turris to Ottawa (in exchange for a 2nd-round pick and David Rundblad).
Finally we should discuss whether Vancouver’s reported unwilling to part ways with Virtanen and Horvat in deal for Kane is sensible. It is, and it isn’t.
Horvat is playing his best hockey of the season lately, and seems to be adjusting a bit better to the pace of the NHL game as he approaches his 40th contest. As a 19-year-old, Horvat has essentially been a sub-replacement level player outside of the hashmarks in his rookie season.
That isn’t surprising or a negative indicator, really. Most teenagers get stomped in a league that habitually eats its young (see: O’Reilly, Ryan). The evidence and the eye test would still suggest that he’s likely to be a very good NHL player.
If Vancouver is unwilling to part ways with Horvat based on his projected two-way upside and the fact that he plays a premium position, that would be understandable. Personally I think that Kane is a relatively safe bet to be the more valuable piece over the next decade, but I wouldn’t kill the Canucks if they missed out on an opportunity to acquire him because they’re that high on Horvat.
As for Virtanen, that’s a different story. I’m higher on Virtanen than the rest of the CanucksArmy staff, but I tend to think the likelihood of him developing into a player that can score at a bona fide first-line rate like Kane has done consistently in the NHL is relatively low. Basically if everything breaks right for the big forward from Abbotsford, he’ll end up being a very similar player to what Kane has been the past three years.
Not only is Kane more likely to perform like an above average top-six forward over the next five-years to a decade, but he’s much more likely to be that over the next three years – which has to be a priority for the Canucks. If this organization hopes to squeeze any remaining juice out of the Sedin twins’ twilight seasons, Kane is a piece that can help on that timeline. Virtanen is extremely unlikely to.
McKenzie suggests that teams will test Winnipeg’s need to bring postseason NHL hockey back to Manitoba for the first time in over 20 years ahead of the deadline.
“Teams interested in Kane now are likely to test Cheveldayoff’s resolve and/or patience by offering packages weighed more heavily with here-and-now help than future considerations to see if he bites,” McKenzie wrote on Monday. “No one can say with absolute certainty summer offers for Kane will be markedly better in quality than the Jets would get pre-deadline, but one most certainly can say the Jets’ prospects of making the playoffs and making noise in the post-season are diminished by sitting on the deal.”
These are all the right buttons to push for the Canucks, even if we’d prefer to see them push a bit more of their stack into the centre of the table in an effort to land a 23-year-old power forward. There might even be some mutual interest in pulling the trigger on a deal, but Vancouver still seems like a long-shot so long as teams with more to offer – like the Capitals – remain in the mix.