Will Evander Kane play for the Barracuda this weekend? Not so fast, he says

SAN JOSE – The Barracuda plays two games this weekend at SAP Center but it appears unlikely that Evander Kane will dress for either one.

Kane did not participate in the Barracuda’s practice Thursday morning at Sharks Ice, arriving at the facility just before the team began to skate. Kane had a medical appointment before practice, Barracuda general manager Joe Will said.

Kane, who, per a team spokesman, did off-ice work instead, added that he won’t play in a game until he feels completely healthy. The Barracuda is scheduled to practice again Friday and play Abbotsford on Saturday and Sunday.

“I want to make sure that I’m feeling good,” Kane told this news organization Thursday. “I want to make sure I’m feeling 100 percent.”

Kane has only participated in two Barracuda practices, both last week, and hasn’t played a professional game since May 12 when the Sharks hosted the Vegas Golden Knights in their 2020-2021 regular-season finale. He did not travel to Abbotsford, B.C. for the Barracuda’s two games there, or take part in San Jose’s 10-1 loss to Stockton on Tuesday.

Kane stayed away from the Sharks throughout training camp, then was suspended for 21 games on Oct. 18, two days after the start of the regular season for violating the NHL and NHLPA’s COVID-19 Protocol.

“It’s not like a development situation to where you’re just going right into maximizing games,” Will said. “With this, you certainly want to take your time so that you’re not putting him in a harmful situation. He didn’t have a training camp, so this kind of is his training camp, getting a cadence of good practices.”

Having Kane at back at full strength works in the best interest of the Sharks, who would presumably have a better chance at trading the skilled winger if he is healthy and productive. Kane is in the fourth year of a seven-year contract that carries an average annual value of $7 million.

The Sharks would more than likely have to retain part of Kane‘s salary to make a deal work, or potentially involve a third team to shave down even more of the forward’s cap hit.

“The last thing we want or he wants to do is go in too early. We’re not in a hurry,” Will said. “We’ll just get him in when he’s had some good practices and when he’s feeling ready.”

Kane reiterated Thursday he is maintaining the clause in his contract in which he submits a list of three teams he can be traded to, adding that the Sharks know who those teams are. Kane wouldn’t specify who those teams were or confirm that he would like to be dealt to a contender.

“I have a contract here. (The Sharks) have sent me down. I’m here to play to the best of my ability and when that time is up, then I will reevaluate things,” Kane said. “I’m here to do my job and I’m doing that. When it comes to a trade, I have three teams. So that’s something that my agent has expressed. That’s what we’re going do.”

The Sharks, if unable to find a trade partner, could buy out the remainder of Kane’s contract next summer, although that would be an unappetizing option. The Sharks bought out the final three years of goalie Martin Jones’ contract this summer, keeping part of his salary on the books until the end of the 2026-27 season.

Buying out Kane’s deal on top of that would mean over $5 million in dead cap money for the Sharks for the next three years, and a small part of Kane’s deal on the payroll until 2027-2028.

A buyout would give Kane full autonomy on where he plays next after this season, albeit likely at a reduced salary.

“I’m aware of all the options that are on the table and all the different scenarios and I’m prepared for all of them,” Kane said. “So I’m not going to get into what’s better, what’s not, what I prefer, what I don’t prefer. But I’m more than aware of the options that are on the table.”

Kane was placed on waivers by the Sharks on Nov. 28 and cleared the next day, allowing him to begin skating in the AHL.

“I know some of the guys obviously from previous camps and getting caught up here and there,” Kane said. “But getting to know some of the guys that I’ve never met before and ever played with, and it’s a good vibe.”

The Barracuda’s next game after this weekend is Wednesday at home against Colorado, followed by a four-game road trip from Dec. 17 to 22.

“As I said, I’m not going to play unless I’m 100 percent, and hopefully I can get back to 100 percent as soon as possible,” Kane said, “but we’ll have to wait and see.”

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