The grievance that the NHL Players’ Association filed on behalf of Evander Kane after the San Jose Sharks terminated the forward’s contract earlier this year might not be resolved until after the start of free agency on July 13.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said Wednesday the independent arbitrator overseeing the case, Richard A. Levie, is unavailable for the rest of June, adding the league was trying to set a date to complete the grievance hearing as soon as Levie became available.
If the NHLPA and the Sharks do not agree to a settlement prior to the hearing’s resumption, Daly said the possibility exists that NHL free agency will have already begun by the time Levie announces his decision.
“We have to work on some dates as early in the summer as we can,” Daly said. “If it goes to the second day of hearing and we wait for the decision from the arbitrator, which we’ll want a written award, my guess is (a decision would come) past the date of free agency.”
A decision that doesn’t come until mid-July could potentially complicate the Sharks’ offseason spending plans.
Believing Kane breached his contract and violated AHL COVID-19 protocols while he was in the AHL, the Sharks in January terminated what was left of the seven-year, $49 million deal the two sides signed in May 2018.
If it is determined the Sharks had sufficient cause to terminate the deal, then the team is free and clear of their financial obligation to Kane, roughly $22.9 million.
However, if Levie rules that the Sharks did not have sufficient grounds, the team could still be on the hook for all or some of the money that Kane was still owed. Kane’s deal carried an annual cap hit of $7 million.
Kane is a pending unrestricted free agent and TSN’s Chris Johnston reported that if the grievance remains unresolved by July 13, he would still likely be able to sign a contract with another team.
The grievance hearing first began on April 19 but could not be completed in one day. Since then, Kane and the Edmonton Oilers made it to the Western Conference Final and did not see their season end until June 6, when they lost the best-of-seven series to the Colorado Avalance four games to none.
The Sharks, per CapFriendly, have just over $5.6 million available to spend right now under the $82.5 million salary cap for next season.
After the contract was terminated, the NHLPA filed a grievance on Kane’s behalf, although Daly has said the league was satisfied that the Sharks had “adequate grounds to terminate.”
Kane was placed in AHL protocol on Dec. 21 after he tested positive for the coronavirus and initially there is a dispute as to whether he had medical clearance to fly to Vancouver on Dec. 29 while he was supposed to be isolated for 10 days.
The Barracuda, the Sharks’ AHL affiliate, expected Kane to return to the team on Dec. 31, after his quarantine, but he did not come back until midway through the following week, although that was also disputed.
Later in January, the NHL cleared Kane after the league investigated his cross-border travel during the holiday break. The NHL looked into whether such travel was conducted in accordance with applicable law in both the US and Canada.
After Kane was cleared by the league, he signed a one-year, $2.11 million contract with the Oilers.