While everyone is hoping the year 2021 is better than the year 2020 (and for most that will be a given), the Chicago Blackhawks are finding out that their 2021 is starting off with bang, and not a good one. Kirby Dach and Alex Nylander are likely out for the season. Jonathan Toews just came down with a mysterious illness that could keep him out for who knows how long. The 2020-21 season hasn’t even officially begun for the Blackhawks and it’s already a disaster.
There are two things the Blackhawks can do. One, they can either try to keep fighting a battle that seems futile. Two, they can embrace the fact that they aren’t going to be a very good team this season and speed up a rebuilding process.
Considering, as Mark Lazerus of The Athletic points out, that the Hawks are without five of their top nine 5-on-5 points producers, don’t have a proven goalie, haven’t signed Dylan Strome have only a “small army of bottom-six forwards” outside of Patrick Kane, the second option makes a lot more sense.
It’s where the conversation about Patrick Kane gets interesting.
Rip The Band-Aid Off and Trade Kane
The Blackhawks have said they don’t want to trade any of their top-four core. Those players — Kane, Toews, Seabrook and Keith — have all said they’re open to staying. But, that all came before disaster struck the team in waves over the past couple of weeks.
Kane is a player who still has a ton of value. Only, he doesn’t really have it in Chicago where the team is unlikely to be competitive for the next two-to-four seasons. He’s got three seasons left on his contract at $10.5 million and while that’s a huge number to take on in today’s NHL landscape, there are teams who would line up to make an offer.
At the same time, if the Blackhawks wait another season or two, it’s tough to know what Kane’s production will look like. He’s likely to be a strong player with lots to offer, but what if his production drops, and even just a touch? For every year that it could go down, Kane gets another year older. He’s 32 now. At 35, he won’t be nearly as attractive a trade piece. His $10.5 million salary doesn’t look so absorbable.
At the same time, Chicago can restock an almost empty cupboard quickly by doing what no one wants to do. Trade Kane while teams are willing to fight over him. Pick up draft picks and useful young pieces who can grow with the team as everyone ages and gains experience together.
The team simply needs to convince him since he’s got a no-move clause.
Moving Kane is Not That Insane an Idea
Even a month ago, this might have seemed like an incredibly crazy idea. Of all the guys Chicago wouldn’t want to move, Kane was at the top of the list. Today, it’s not that nutty.
The Blackhawks are not going to make the postseason in 2020-21. They aren’t better than Columbus, Dallas, or Nashville. They certainly aren’t better than Tampa Bay. Lazerus writes, “It’s going to be rough. But it doesn’t have to be pointless. Embrace the suck. It’s all that’s left to do.”
At the very least, see what’s out there. Talk to teams like Buffalo, Seattle, New York [Rangers] New Jersey, Los Angeles or Ottawa. See if they have any interest and then come back to Kane and see what he thinks.
The conversations could get interesting and the returns could be significant.
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