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Turn The Heater On

Six goals in Evander Kane’s last five games have him on fire right now. It’s important for the Oilers to recognize what’s in front of them.

Edmonton Oilers v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

Evander Kane is hot right now.

So hot.

He’s scoring goals in buckets, and he’s a pending UFA. He’s on the top line with Connor McDavid and Kailer Yamamoto, and pucks are just going in like moths to a flame. Surely, the Oilers want to get in there and offer a big contract for beaucoup bucks and get that deal done yesterday, right?

It is very tempting to start talking oneself into offering an extension to Evander Kane this offseason. That’s not the worst idea in the world, but we ought to take a step back and catch our breath before offering the 5x5.

Everything is going in the net for Evander Kane right now. Well, almost everything. Lots of things are going in the net for Evander Kane as of late. Let’s talk about them.

Kane has had a recent rush of goals. Since joining the Oilers, he’s put up 14 in 25 games, which is pretty good. He’s scored six goals in his last five games, which is really, really good. He’s fit into the lineup near seamlessly, and right now all the goalies he’s facing are picking up some light sunburns due to all of those red lights they’ve been seeing. It’s easy to get used to goals. The Oilers seem to win more games when they score goals than when they don’t. Add the fact that Evander Kane brings a physical element that most everyone loves to his game, and it’s easy to rationalize a big extension.

Evander Kane is due a contract at the end of this season. An unrestricted free agent, he’s free to re-sign with the Oilers at any time. He will likely want to test the waters once free agency begins on July 13th. Whether the Oilers want to extend Kane, or whether he’s too rich for a return, the Oilers need to see that Kane’s on a big ol’ heater right now and regression will occur.

A TIME NOT TOO LONG AGO

Please recall Jordan Eberle.

A little more than ten years ago, Jordan Eberle burst onto the Oilers’ roster, and his second season saw him put up 76 points in 78 games. It was WILD. 34 goals, 76 points. A point of concern? Eberle shot the puck at nearly 19% that season. This means that nearly one in every five of his shots went in, which was great if you were Jordan Eberle and were about to sign a multi year extension.

Surely, the Oilers knew that Eberle wasn’t going to continue to score at a 1-in-5 rate for the duration of his next contract, right?

They did not. The Oilers rewarded Eberle with a 6x6 deal, thinking he was going to somehow improve on nearly a point per game. Eberle’s next season saw him put up a lovely 65 points, he was eventually traded after the 2016-17 season. Barring an extreme stroke of luck, Eberle wasn’t going to cross the 70 point line again. He’s looking like about 50 points this year in Seattle, which is pretty good considering it’s ten years since 76 points.

PLEASE RECALL

I’m not doing Zack Kassian. It just happened and you see how that turned out.

OKAY FINE

What does Jordan Eberle have to do with Evander Kane? Both had some impressive heaters on their résumés that year. Eberle had a season long heater, which is very difficult to replicate and very good for him. Since joining the Oilers, Kane’s shooting percentage is 16.9 which is not only a career high for him, it’s a full 7 percentage points higher than his career average (9.9%).

Since joining the Oilers, Kane has averaged 3.32 shots per game. If we take the average number of shots between now and the remainder of the season and multiply it at his current S% of 16.9, Kane would finish with eleven more goals in the remaining 18 games. That’d give him 25 goals in 43 games, which is pretty spectacular after coming on halfway through the season. 25 in 43 games is a 47 goal campaign over a full season, which is a big jump from the career high of 30.

The issue? All good things come to an end. Shooting 17% (or more) might last for a while, but eventually things tend to regress towards the mean. Like Eberle, when the goals fell from 34 to 28 to 24 to 25, it didn’t look as good under a six million dollar glow. If Kane shoots 3.32 shots per game and scores right at his career average, that’s about 27 goals over the course of a regular season. A near 30-goal season is still outstanding, but it’s a far cry from almost 30 goals in half the games.

CAVEAT EMPTOR

Kane’s contract situation is simple, but the Oilers’ cap situation is not. If the cap goes up $1MM for 2022-23 like it’s been suggested, the Oilers will have roughly 7 or 8 million in cap space to extend Kane, sign Jesse Puljujärvi, Kailer Yamamoto, Ryan McLeod, and new defenceman Brett Kulak. There’s always a chance that the Oilers could free up some cap by making a trade, or they could go the route of the buyout one more time. But until they do either of those things, Kane may find himself testing free agency. Maybe he doesn’t, and he’s interested in signing on for term rather than a hefty dollar amount.

If they can make an offer for a year (or two at the most) at a reasonable dollar amount, outstanding. If they have to walk away because Kane has priced himself out of Edmonton’s future, that’s all you can do when your cap space is tied up. The Oilers just spent 37.5MM last offseason on Zach Hyman, they’ll have a top line LW in 2022-23 and for years ahead.

It’s still early, and we don’t know what the future holds for the Oiler and Evander Kane. The Oilers would do themselves a big favour by taking a deep breath and look at the big picture instead of half a season (or less).

Heaters come and heaters go, but contracts last a lot longer.