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Kane asks fans to keep an open mind as controversial forward joins Oilers

Kane declared bankruptcy in 2021, with more than US$26 million in debts
New addition to the Edmonton Oilers Evander Kane speaks to media in Edmonton, Friday, Jan. 28, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Evander Kane knows signing with the Edmonton Oilers won’t be a move universally loved by the team’s fans.

Edmonton will be his fifth NHL city, and the Oilers the fourth franchise, for which the 30-year-old has played. There will be questions about his past — from suspensions due to violations of COVID protocols, a bankruptcy and self-confessed gambling problems. His contract was voided by the San Jose Sharks.

The biggest headlines of his career, though, came from allegations of abuse lodged by his ex-wife, which were not proven in court. Kane has custody of the former couple’s daughter.

The Oilers brain trust and Kane met with the media Friday morning at Rogers Place to officially introduce the winger. Kane is on a deal with the Oilers — with a reported salary of US$750,000 and $625,000 in bonuses — that takes him to the end of this season, and nothing more.

Kane was asked what he’d say to the segment of Edmonton hockey fans who might not be happy he’s joining the team.

“I want to clear up a lot of the misinformation, a lot of the storylines painting me in a certain light that are completely untrue, inaccurate and false,” Kane said. “I would encourage (fans) to be open-minded, to allow me to do what I do best and get to know me on the ice, off the ice, around the rink, in the community, and see what I bring to the table.

“Every city I’ve been in, I’ve always worked in the community and done what I can to help make that city, that community a better place.”

There’s no denying Kane’s pedigree on the ice. He’s got 506 points in 769 games. But Kane has continually generated headlines for the wrong reasons.

In 2021-22, he was suspended 21 games by the NHL for violating COVID-19 protocols. He was investigated by the league for another alleged violation this season that concluded earlier this week, with the league stating there was not sufficient evidence to conclude Kane “knowingly made misrepresentations regarding his COVID-19 status or test results in connection with his international travel.”

Kane declared bankruptcy in 2021, with more than US$26 million in debts. He’s publicly admitted he has a gambling issue, has seen a therapist for that, but has repeatedly denied that he bet on or influenced NHL games.

“I take responsibility for things I’ve done wrong,” Kane said. “But I’m definitely not taking responsibility for things I haven’t done…

“It’s funny that people think that I am going to come in, like some kid on the playground, and disrupt everything. That’s just not the case. I’ve had a lot of experience on and off the ice, I’ve been in this league a long time, and I try to share those experiences with my team, and try to help them prevent making the same mistakes that I have.”

Oilers president of hockey operations and general manager Ken Holland said, after speaking with Kane via Zoom shortly after his dismissal from the Sharks, he began doing his homework. Would Kane be a fit?

“I talked to people in our organization, I talked to people outside the organization,” said Holland. “In the end, you’re talking about chemistry. When it comes to his talent, his skill set, obviously he’s a very, very talented player that’s going to make us better.”

Holland, coach Dave Tippett and Kane had dinner in Vancouver earlier this week, when the Oilers were in the city to play the Canucks. They met for two and a half hours.

“I left that dinner feeling that Evander would be a real positive addition to our hockey team,” Holland said.

Kane is expected to make his Oilers debut when the team faces Montreal Saturday night.

He said “quite a few teams” showed interest in signing him after he and the Sharks parted ways.

“I had to make a decision that was going to be the best for me, and those teams continued to dwindle down, and we got to a number where Edmonton was obviously in the mix,” Kane said. “The more conversations we had, the further the process continued. It just became more and more evident that this was the best fit for me.”

—Steven Sandor, The Canadian Press

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