We may not know exactly what Patrick Kane is thinking, but we’re starting to get a pretty good sense of how he’s feeling.
It’s all becoming real for the Chicago Blackhawks icon.
The shock of seeing a 16-year run with one NHL organization potentially whittled down to its final days. The stress of navigating conflicting thoughts about where else he might finish out the season. The weight of knowing the decision, one way or another, rests entirely on his own shoulders.
Kane has been fairly candid since the Blackhawks returned from the all-star break and bye week earlier this month.
There was the acknowledgement to reporters that he wasn’t the “happiest” about seeing Vladimir Tarasenko acquired by the Rangers because it filled a void in the lineup that may otherwise have been reserved for him, and there was a wistful admission that the days were passing a little too quickly for his liking.
“It’s always exciting playing at home, I always love playing at the United Center in front of the crowd here,” Kane said on Feb. 10. “Yeah, kind of wish you had a little bit more time here this month, but it is what it is and [you’ll] cherish all these games.”
Including Friday’s visit to Ottawa, the Blackhawks have eight games left before the March 3 trade deadline.
Kane is seven games shy of reaching 1,300 in a Chicago sweater during his career between the regular season and playoffs.
That helps illustrate why there is so much weight to his situation. The man with the biggest name and most sparkling resume among those who may be moved during this NHL trading period has a mammoth legacy to consider.
He must determine if his heart and hip are up to a move, and fast. The expectation is that Kane — and his agent, Pat Brisson — will inform Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson about his willingness to waive a no-movement clause next week.
If it’s a yes, that will leave a window where a trade can be worked out to one of the small handful of destinations he’d consider moving.
If it’s a no, it will give the front office time to move on to other business at a deadline, where Chicago is again expected to be an aggressive seller.
Kane should in theory be able to hand-pick his next destination. When a Hall of Famer one year removed from a 90-point season wants to join your contending team, how do you pass up that opportunity?
Well, the reality is a little more grim.
Kane has looked ordinary on an awful team, compiling one assist in five games since returning from the break to see his production fall to a career-worst 0.7 points per game. He’s attempted to downplay the effects of a longstanding hip issue, but that hasn’t quelled rampant industry speculation about him being damaged goods.
The Rangers struck early with their Feb. 9 trade for Tarasenko because they had concerns about his health and didn’t want to risk waiting for him to make a decision, only to see the market pass them by.
Manhattan is clearly the apple of Kane’s eye if he’s going to leave Chicago — “That was a team I was definitely looking at,” he told reporters after the Tarasenko trade — and there’s still some faint hope the Rangers may double down by taking a run at him, too.
They can make it work cap-wise with double retention by running Kane’s contract ($10.5 million cap hit) through a third-party broker. The cost of doing so may only be an additional fourth- or fifth-round draft pick because most of the player’s actual salary has already been paid.
Can #NYR make enough cap space to still fit Patrick Kane? Yes:— PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) February 10, 2023
-If they sent 2 players down today (ex. Hajek/Gauthier) & had 21 players, with no other moves they could fit $2.8M in annual cap hit at deadline
-Kane with 75% retained is $2.625M Cap Hithttps://t.co/00zTCjeQPm
If it’s not New York, Kane will have to consider other contenders.
The Carolina Hurricanes and Dallas Stars are top-tier teams searching for scoring help, but they don’t offer the allure of show time at Madison Square Garden. You can find more glitz in Vegas, but the Golden Knights are believed to be locked in on other targets.
As much as Toronto might tick some important boxes from the player’s perspective, does Kane fit what the Maple Leafs need?
It’s certainly no slam dunk that Kane, a UFA at year's end, leaves Chicago by March 3.
Auston Matthews made a good point this week, however, while discussing how unusual it might be to see Kane wearing another sweater. He pointed out that it’s been weird not watching Kane perform on the sport’s biggest stage in the post-season in so long.
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Remember, this is a man who has scored both Western Conference Final and Stanley Cup-clinching goals in overtime, and compiled the fifth-most playoff points of any NHLer in the salary cap era despite playing for a team that missed the dance four of the last five years.
It’s no secret that playoff hockey won’t be returning to Chicago any time soon.
As Kane looks in the mirror over the next few days, he must decide if it’s worth trying to chase down postseason glory somewhere else.