Do the Rangers and Blackhawks Line Up on a Deal for Patrick Kane?
Patrick Kane isn’t going to Florida for this weekend’s All-Star Game. This season hasn’t been great for Kaner, who has missed games because of a lingering lower-body (hip/ankle) issue and his numbers have dipped without Alex DeBrincat as a wingman.
But even with all of those underlying factors, the trade market for arguably the greatest American-born player in NHL history is still hot. As a rental, Kane could provide the boost a team needs offensively to make a difference in the postseason. And there’s the potential to re-sign Kane after the season, when he hits unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career.
Kane still needs to make a decision about his future. And every report is that the conversation he and his agent, Pat Brisson (who also reps Jonathan Toews, Seth Jones and a few other Blackhawks) is still pending. But if he decides it’s time to move on, teams will likely line up.
By virtue of his full no-move clause, Kane directs the action. He could provide the Blackhawks with a list of teams to whom he would accept a deal, or just one preferred location.
New York Groove?
One of the teams that’s been linked to Kane for some time is the New York Rangers. Frankly, they’ve been tied to Kane since they signed one of his other favorite former teammates, Artemi Panarin. And it makes a lot of sense for the Rangers to go for it.
Entering Monday, the Rangers are in third place in the Metropolitan Division. They’re ten points back of division-leading Carolina (also a team linked to Kane) and six points back of the red-hot New Jersey Devils.
Even with their talented roster, the Rangers are right smack in the middle of the NHL in scoring; they rank 15th in the league at 3.16 goals per game. Adding Kane on the right wing — a specific area of need — could improve that area for them.
Former Blackhawks defenseman John Scott speculated on his “Dropping the Gloves” podcast about the return the Hawks are asking in return for the only No. 1 overall pick in Chicago’s franchise history, and it includes another top overall pick.
Scott speculated based on what he’s heard/read that price to land Kane would be a first-round pick and one of the Rangers’ top young NHL roster players: Kaapo Kakko or Alexis Lafrenière.
And Scott emphatically says the Rangers need to make the deal to get his former teammate in Chicago.
So let’s talk about the return he speculates about on his podcast.
Does a Kane-Rangers Deal Work?
First, the Rangers are one of three teams in the NHL with multiple first-round picks this year. Chicago and Montreal are the other two. The Blue Shirts own their pick and Dallas’ via the trade that sent defenseman Nils Lundkvist to the Stars in September. So that’s doable for the Rangers.
According to CapFriendly, the Rangers will have $6,780,413 in available cap space at the deadline. That more than accommodates half of Kane’s $10.5 million cap hit this season if the Blackhawks retained money. The Rangers helped their cap situation when they moved Ryan Reaves to the Wild earlier this season.
So put a check mark next to the availability of both cap space and first-round picks being possible.
So how about the players Scott mentions?
When the Rangers made Lafrenière a healthy scratch after Christmas, I wrote about some of the potential issues I have with the Blackhawks acquiring the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. I won’t re-write that here now, but I’ll reiterate that Lafrenière’s draft placement and him hitting RFA status for the first time this summer are potentially problematic. His best season in the NHL was last year, when he scored 19 goals with 12 assists in 79 games. He did add nine points in 20 postseason games last spring, however.
Kakko was the No. 2 overall pick in 2019, just ahead of Kirby Dach. He’s already tied his career high of 23 points this season, but has never scored more than 10 goals in a regular season; he has nine in 49 games this year, so that could change.
Unlike Lafrenière, Kakko has one more year on his bridge deal at a $2.1 million cap hit. The term, albeit only one year, might be more tempting for the Blackhawks than negotiating with a former top pick. But Lafrenière’s 19-goal season and upside might make him a more intriguing play.
Either way, it’s interesting that there are some more specific names and picks being tied to Kane trade rumors now. I expect that to start increasing as we get closer to both his conversation with the Blackhawks’ front office and the trade deadline in early March.