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Will the crooked path that brought Evander Kane to the Edmonton Oilers last winter bring him back this summer?

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I’ve been doubtful of this possibility, expecting Kane will sign a new NHL deal elsewhere.

That’s still the best bet, given Kane’s unrestricted free agent status, his stellar play for the Edmonton Oilers this regular season and playoffs making him a hotter commodity, and the fact that numerous NHL insiders are predicting Kane will get a $7 million per year pay day, a cap hit that will it’s difficult to image the Oilers being able to afford.

But something former NHL GM and player agent Brian Lawton said on Oilers Now got me thinking that there remains a possibility that the same allures and barriers that saw Kane sign in Edmonton last January are still at work to some extent.

Might they not again combine to push Kane return as an Oiler this summer?

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On a four year deal, Lawton told host Bob Stauffer that based only on his performance, Kane would get close $7 million per year.

Given Kane’s checkered past history, Lawton felt some team would bid higher than they probably should for Kane. “You can easily talk yourself into a deal like that because Evander Kane was a model citizen for the Edmonton Oilers and he was an impact player for them in a massive way. If he continues to approach his job that way with the same veracity, positive attitude and focus, you could say, yes, he’s worth certainly upwards of $6 million (per year). ”

But Lawton suspected the market wouldn’t bear such a high bid in the end. “When it’s all said and done, I believe he’ll get something that starts with a 5 (million per year) in that four year range. I think that will not necessarily be a byproduct because someone won’t go higher. Yet I think Evander is going to recognize how great it was to play with really great centre men no matter what, and to have a chance to win. I’m hoping with his maturity that those things are going to resonate. And that doesn’t mean he will sign with Edmonton. He could find another team that has that type of profile. But I do think he’ll look in that direction when it is all said and carried out. ”

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Lawton nailed the first two forces that brought Kane to Edmonton, the allure of playing with centres like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and the possibility that he could win a Stanley Cup here in Edmonton.

But there’s a third reason Kane might end up back in Edmonton, a barrier that still likely exists when it comes to some teams pursuing the player, the same barrier that existed final January when few teams reportedly pursued Kane, despite the fact he’s a top line NHL power forward.

All kinds of allegations haunted Kane just then, allegations which could not have been more public, as seen by the following summation from Kane’s own Wikipedia page: “Legal and personal issues have plagued Kane during their hockey career. Among other things, he has faced allegations of betting on his own NHL games, accusations of assault, and domestic violence allegations. He has also been suspended for submitting a fake COVID-19 vaccine card, abusing on-ice officials, and other incidents. ”

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No GM or coach came out and said it in plain language, but it’s evident number of teams stayed away from Kane because they didn’t think he’d be a fit either on their team or with their fanbase.

Many in the Edmonton fanbase were also upset about the Oilers wooing Kane, but Edmonton isn’t a woke coastal city. It’s the diverse city, with a good share of oil patch workers and white collar government workers. It’s a city that votes left in some elections, right in other elections. It’s far more like a major city in a Red Republican State than any kind of progressive bastion in California or the northeast States, where woke-ism erupted at elite colleges about seven years ago.

By and large, Kane was welcomed by fans here in less purist and judgemental city such as Edmonton, but I doubt that would have been the case last winter in New York, Boston, Toronto, Vancouver, Seattle or even with the Californian teams. All hell would have erupted if he had signed in those places and it still might.

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If you think I’m way off-base in making this argument, we saw a second case of the same Cancel-ish Culture in the NHL last summer when many teams shied away from Tony DeAngelo, who was rumoured to have rubbed wrong some teammates with his right-wing views. Carolina got him on a bargain contract, just as Edmonton did with Kane.

Will that will dynamic play out again with Kane once more an Unrestricted Free Agent? Will certainly the market for his services be greatly limited with GMs from woke cities fearful of making a move for him?

It could well be the case, even as there’s a reasonable argument to be made that Kane should be welcomed onto any NHL group.

There are indeed serious accusations against him, including allegations of domestic abuse.

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Serious accusations demand a serious response, which can mean police investigation and prosecution, if warranted. A court of law is where judgements on Kane should be made, which has always produced me hesitant to judge your pet myself based on gossip plus newspaper reports.

Of course all fans are free to judge players and to root for them or not. But as I’ve described in the past, and which I’ll repeat now due to the fact it’s the crux of my argument, my own thinking on Kane, and on others who face serious allegations, is informed by my experience as a journalist and by my own mistakes in judging people incorrectly.

I covered major crimes in Edmonton and northern Alberta for twenty years, including many major murder trials. This experience has given me a healthy respect for how easy it is for me and for other people to jump to conclusions and assume guilt, only to find out later the story has been far more complex, that the accused was either not guilty at all, or guilty of some things but not the main crime.

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Most importantly, I have seen smart and experienced police investigators get tunnel vision and make the exact same mistake.

Having been wrong in the past, I’m now super cautious about making quick judgements on anyone accused of main crimes and/or lesser misdeeds. I’ve come to respect the particular presumption of innocence both as a crucial part of the legal process and because I understand my own and our own fallibility.

The presumption of innocence is an important aspect of the decent treatment of others. It’s a crucial part of the process of being fair and accurate. It’s essential to being just. If we forget that, we’re on the wrong route.

In Kane’s case, there is no criminal investigation regarding the accusations from his estranged wife, with whom he’s involved in a bitter divorce, along with claims and counter-claims associated with battery. The NHL investigated her allegations about Kane gambling on NHL groups but could not substantiate them.

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Most crucially, in early December, Kane, not his estranged spouse, was granted by the courts sole custody of their child. In other words, a judge looked at the evidence from both Kane and his estranged wife plus concluded Kane was a better bet for now to care for their child. I put some weight in that.

Do judges always get it right? No . Yet at least there was due process and a considered judgement.

In the end, I don’t believe many of us have the facts to be on solid ground to judge Kane as a person, but we can make sound judgements about him as a player, about how this individual did on the ice and on what his Oilers teammates had to say about your pet.

In both regards, he excelled in Edmonton. His skill and swagger were essential elements in Edmonton’s wins over Los Angeles and Calgary. Teammates seemed to greatly appreciate Kane, who not only scored big goals, he stood up for McDavid and other repeatedly.

If Kane comes back here on a reasonable contract — something in the range of a four-year term earning between $5. 0 and $6. 0 million per time of year — I’ll consider it a decent bet for the Oilers and for Kane. It’s not likely to come about, but I’m not ruling it out.

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Staples upon politics

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Calgary North-East UCP MLA Rajan Sawhney launches her campaign for the leadership of the United Conservative Party from Violet King Henry Plaza at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton, on Monday, June 13, 2022.
Calgary North-East UCP MLA Rajan Sawhney launches her campaign for that leadership of the United Conservative Party from Violet King Henry Plaza at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton, on Monday, June 13, 2022. Photo by Ian Kucerak / Postmedia

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