Patrick Kane isn’t in any hurry when it comes to the NHL trade deadline. In speaking with the media on Monday, including Mark Lazerus of The Athletic, the future Hall of Famer shared his stance when it comes to his playing future, and more specifically where his mindset sits when it comes to the March 3 deadline.
“We talked about it in the summer with Pat (Brisson, his agent),” Kane said. “We’ll probably be taking it up to the deadline and making a decision. I mean, he’s told me a few that have reached out to him. So yeah, we’ll probably talk about that possibly too, if that’s an option of getting traded and obviously figure out a team that could be the best fit. But we’re not really at that point either.”
Speculation will only heat up in the weeks leading up to the deadline when it comes to Kane and teammate Jonathan Toews. The club’s two franchise pillars are both set to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season after signing identical eight-year, $84 million contracts in July of 2014.
The 34-year-old has spent all 16 seasons of his NHL career with Chicago. His 1,214 career points rank second in franchise history while he played a major role in leading the team to Stanley Cup championships in 2010, 2013, and 2015.
Potential Trade Deadline Fits
Most every contender will need to undertake significant salary-cap maneuvering to make room for Kane’s pro-rated $10.5 million cap hit. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the best trade deadline fits while leaving the cap out of the picture for the time being.
New York Rangers
The Rangers make sense off the hop as they figure to have more cap space than a number of contenders who have been previously linked to Kane. If they want to add at the deadline, they have just short of $7 million in available deadline space. The recent emergence of youngster Filip Chytil might already have solved a need for a second or third-line center, so perhaps Chris Drury looks to add an impact winger with his available funds.
Acquiring Kane would reunite him with former Blackhawks running mate Artemi Panarin. Kane’s tutelage of Panarin helped the latter collect 151 points across 162 games in his first two seasons in the NHL before a surprising trade to Columbus. The move also puts Kane closer to his hometown of Buffalo, although it’s unclear how much that would mean to the veteran who is free to sign anywhere come summertime.
Of course, you can’t get any closer to Buffalo than… Buffalo. The Sabres aren’t labeled as contenders, yet they sit just one point back of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. They’re four points back of the Washington Capitals who hold down the top Wild Card but boast three games in hand. They’re very much in it.
The top trio of Jeff Skinner, Tage Thompson, and Alex Tuch is having a monster season as one of the most productive units in the NHL, however, the flanks are thin thereafter. J.J. Peterka and Jack Quinn are featured on a young second line alongside Dylan Cozens who has broken through with 43 points in 49 games in his sophomore season. Cozens just signed a long-term extension with the organization on Tuesday.
While they surprisingly sit third in offense, a hometown reunion makes sense on a Sabres squad pushing for their first postseason berth since 2011.
New Jersey Devils
Fifty games into their season and it’s abundantly clear the Devils aren’t going anywhere as full-fledged contenders this season. They’re strong down the middle in the top six with Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes having big seasons, but they could use some help on the wing.
For instance, Hughes has racked up 35 goals — third most in the NHL — and 67 points in 50 games skating on a line with Yegor Sharangovich and Fabian Zetterlund. Clearly, that hasn’t hindered his production but slotting Kane on either wing would give that top-six a serious shot in the arm.
Keep in mind this is a young Devils forward group without much in terms of postseason experience. The addition of clutch playoff performer Ondrej Palat was key, but Hughes could use a steady hand — and a fellow American — on his wing in the postseason.
Toronto Maple Leafs
I recently explained the Maple Leafs’ need for a defenseman, but there’s also a glaring hole up front to the left of John Tavares on the team’s second line (when healthy).
With William Nylander skating alongside Auston Matthews when the latter returns to the lineup, could you imagine Kane and Mitch Marner on the same line? Since Marner entered the league in the 2016-17 season, Kane ranks fourth in assists and Marner fifth. That would be a lot of fun and give the Maple Leafs two elite lines to throw at postseason opposition.
With all due respect to Calle Jarnkrok who has performed well in that spot with 12 goals and 25 points on the season, adding Kane and putting Jarnkrok into a more traditional third-line role makes the Leafs’ depth chart look awfully deep up front.
Los Angeles Kings
Look no further than the Kings’ top line to see how Kane fits into this lineup.
At the moment, it’s youngster Quinton Byfield skating with Anze Kopitar and the underrated Adrian Kempe. Los Angeles has several wingers injured with Arthur Kaliyev, Trevor Moore, Gabriel Vilardi, and Carl Grundstrom sidelined, but none are top-of-the-lineup talents.
There isn’t an exact fit with Kopitar given he and Kane are both past-first mentalities, but the Kings’ league-average offense could use a jolt. They’ve added youth in forward-looking deadline deals in recent years, but now is the time to buy. The club sits second in the Pacific with 63 points, but their 53 games played are as many as five more than teams below them should they slip to a Wild Card spot.
Adding Kane for a second-half push could build on their postseason appearance from a season ago.
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