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Inside the Cage: Adding Kane to the Mix

by Ross McKeon @rossmckeon /

What did Evander Kane do Monday once he found out he was traded to the Sharks?

"He raced to get to the first flight to try and make a difference for us," San Jose general manager Doug Wilson said. "That tells you something about him right away."

Wilson made one of the biggest trades on an otherwise tame last day for deals in the NHL when he acquired the offensively-gifted, prime-age forward from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for two conditional draft picks and depth center Danny O'Regan.

It's clearly understood Kane is basically in San Jose on a tryout basis. The 6-foot-2, 212-pound left-shooting speedster is due to be an unrestricted free agent when his current six-year extension - signed back when he was a member of the Winnipeg Jets - expires.

It's also clearly understood that the Sharks are getting an exclusive opportunity to test drive Kane, a player who definitely makes sense now and into the future if this is as good of a fit on the ice as it appears on paper. Drafted fourth overall in 2009 by the Atlanta Thrashers, Kane is a prototype power forward who combines size, speed and skill to strike fear into opposing defensemen.

"The specific skill set that he brings is something we were looking for," Wilson said. "His speed, scoring, grit and his youth - he brings a lot of things to the table - and his familiarity with a couple of our players, especially our leadership group, is important as well."

Kane is familiar with Sharks defenseman Brent Burns and injured center Joe Thornton from previous international competition while sharing the same locker room for Team Canada. In addition, Kane and Sharks captain Joe Pavelski were teammates with Minsk Dynamo in Russia during the 2012-13 NHL lockout.

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"That's probably one of the biggest positives - I know a couple guys on that team," Kane said via conference call on Monday. "Knowing a couple of the key guys makes the transition into the room a little easier."

With 177 goals and 340 points in 557 career NHL games, Kane has been a consistent performer on teams that haven't nearly the kind of regular-season or playoff success as San Jose. Kane has reached double figures in goals every year, including 20 scored with the Sabres in 61 contests during this his ninth season in the league. Kane scored a career-high 30 goals in 2011-12 with Winnipeg and 28 more in 70 games with Buffalo last year.

"I'm excited about the trade, I'm excited to join the group of guys in San Jose," Kane said. "In terms of trade rumors throughout the year, it was something I was prepared for going in and I'm just really happy with how things worked out. And I'm really happy about going to a great team like San Jose."

"Players like this in this age group - and with this skill set - there's not that many of them in the league so you're always on top of it," Wilson said about his pursuit of Kane. "I think the timing naturally came together. (Buffalo G.M.) Jason (Botterill) and I have talked about a lot of things since the day he took the job in Buffalo." 

With regards to conditions of the deal, Buffalo gets San Jose's 2019 first-round selection if the Sharks sign Kane or if they win this year's Stanley Cup. And the pick, which is lottery protected, turns into a second-round choice in 2019 if Kane does not sign in San Jose. In addition, the Sharks have until this year's draft to determine if the Sabres get their fourth-round pick in 2019, or if it defers to a third-rounder in 2020.

"We think it's a really fair deal for everybody," said Wilson, who is holding six picks in the 2018 NHL Draft. "This is an important draft for us. … To get a player like this to help us in the stretch run and potentially into the future is a very fair deal."

The Sharks, who also acquired veteran center Eric Fehr to anchor the fourth line from Toronto within a week of Monday's deadline, did not deal anyone off the roster. There was speculation Paul Martin, Joel Ward and even Aaron Dell would garner interest.

Wilson allowed Martin's agent to see if there was something that made sense for the veteran defenseman, who has slipped down the Sharks' depth chart.

"We wanted to do what was right for Paul," Wilson said. "But we're also very pleased with where it ended up as we still have him as part of our depth. We'll need a lot of players going forward during the stretch run. Right now we have Paul as one of our eight defenseman, and we'll probably need all of them."

Wilson said he never entertained any offers for the pending unrestricted free agent Dell, and re-iterated he wasn't looking to make one anyway for the back-up goalie who has been an instrumental part of San Jose's success.

"Aaron Dell is a great story," Wilson said. "Having a goaltending tandem like Jonsey and Deller is really, really important. As a matter of fact we'll be doing something with his contract going forward - that's my intention - he's been extremely loyal to us. We like to reward people who have gone through the journey and been loyal, and we'll try to address that going forward."

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