Top Shelf: Rumors swirling around Kane

Philadelphia, PA ( - The Winnipeg Jets have gone down this road with Evander Kane before, but the club may be serious this time.

The rumor mill is starting to churn up Kane's name as a potential trade target, and with the NHL trade deadline less than a month away, the embattled forward could finally be shipped out of Winnipeg.

It was only this past summer when we last heard whispers of Kane's departure from the Jets, but nothing materialized. However, recent reports out of Winnipeg suggest Kane could be back on the trading block and there are reasons to believe the latest rumors are for real.

On Thursday morning, Darren Dreger of TSN reported the Jets are listening to teams calling about Kane. Shortly after, Pierre LeBrun of ESPN joined Dreger by saying his sources were reporting the same thing.

If true, Kane could be the biggest name available before this year's trade deadline, which is set for March 2.

It's no secret things haven't gone well for Kane since he hit his high water mark with a 30-goal season in 2011-12, Winnipeg's first season after relocating from Atlanta. But at only 23 years of age, he could still fetch a high price on the trade market.

Several teams could be interested in taking a flier on Kane, but there are a few factors that could make it difficult to actually get a deal done.

First and foremost is Kane's contract, which he signed in the offseason following his 30-goal season. Winnipeg bet that Kane's 2011-12 campaign was just a glimmer of great things to come and the team tried to lock the youngster up for what they believed would be a discount price of $30 million over six seasons.

Obviously, it hasn't worked out that way as Kane, the fourth overall pick in the 2009 draft, has battled injuries and seen his production dip since his breakout season. He has managed to pot only 46 goals in 148 games since the start of the lockout-shortened campaign of 2012-13 and Kane only has 10 goals and 22 points over 37 games this season.

The second issue is the frequent rumors of Kane's questionable attitude. The most famous example came a few months after Kane signed his lucrative deal when the winger posted a picture to his Twitter feed showing him using a stack of $100 bills as a phone, a la Floyd Mayweather.

It always seemed to me that Kane's Mayweather moment was much ado about nothing, but there is no question the timing of the photo was ill-advised considering it came in the waning days of the lockout when both sides involved in the labor squabble were trying to paint the other as greedy. Kane, however, was only 21 at the time and probably thought the photo was funny. Chalk it up to immaturity.

The latest rumor about Kane sounds more innocent than the money incident, but it also suggests he still has some growing up to do.

Kane was reportedly scratched from Tuesday's game in his hometown of Vancouver for failing to follow team dress code rules. Although some folks originally reported he was taken out of the lineup due to an injury, according to the Winnipeg Free Press the scratch stemmed from Kane showing up to a team meeting in sweat pants instead of a suit.

It doesn't seem like a major infraction, but it's possible Kane could have been deliberately flouting head coach Paul Maurice's rules. Then again, it may have been an honest mistake. Either way, the incident does little to alter Kane's reputation as a guy who can't stay on the same page as his teammates.

Back in September, fellow Jets forward Blake Wheeler made waves when he said Kane "needs to step up and be a leader on our team." Only the people inside the locker room know if Kane has actually tried to take Wheeler's advice, but the embattled player's poor performance on the ice and the recent reports of his issues following team rules suggest he has not.

And some folks are suggesting there is much more to the reports of Kane's clashes with his team. Renaud Lavoie of TVA sports tweeted that the dress code violation was just "the tip of the iceberg." It would make sense for the Jets not to divulge everything going on behind closed doors, especially if they are seriously thinking about trading Kane.

Between his annual salary cap hit of $5.25 million and rumors of poor off-ice behavior, the Jets may find it difficult to get a big return if they decide to deal Kane. But at this point, they may simply take what they can get and be rid of a player who may be more trouble than he's worth.

The tricky part is getting another team to believe Kane's behavior would change if he was shipped elsewhere. It wouldn't be impossible to sell people on Kane's positives, particularly as we get closer to the deadline when teams could resort to desperate measures for a chance to improve their club.

The good news for the Jets is that despite another down season by Kane, the team is currently in line to make the postseason for the first time since the franchise relocated from Atlanta.

There is a distinct possibility Winnipeg could be giving up on Kane too soon, but if the team feels his attitude is hurting the club's chemistry during a playoff run, then trading him is worth the risk.