The Chicago Blackhawks are off to an 0-2 start to the NHL season after losing to the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night. It's possibly a sign of things to come, as they are likely to struggle throughout the 2022-23 campaign.
There's also one big question surrounding Chicago: Will Patrick Kane be on the team by the time the season is over?
Trade rumors have been swirling about the right winger, who has spent his entire 16-year NHL career with the Blackhawks. And he's experienced plenty of success with the franchise, winning three Stanley Cups.
However, it could be time for Kane and the rebuilding Blackhawks to part ways. It might be best for both sides if he wasn't in Chicago by season's end, and there's a decent chance that will be the case.
According to Pierre LeBrun of TSN, Kane could be moved by the Blackhawks before the trade deadline on March 3, even though he "wasn't ready to have that conversation" with the team during the summer. He has a full no-movement clause in his contract, so he's in control of the situation.
"My sense of it is that his agent, Pat Brisson, and Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson have talked and said, 'Let's circle back to each other around December and January and see where things stand,'" LeBrun told TSN's Insider Trading.
What could change between now and then for Chicago? As LeBrun noted, with the Blackhawks likely to struggle, the losing "will probably grow tiring" for Kane, and he may then "be ready to talk trade."
Kane is still only 33, so he has some productive years still ahead of him. But it isn't clear how long it will take the Blackhawks to get back to being a contender. They have missed the playoffs four of the past seasons (including each of the past two years), and they've made it clear they're rebuilding with recent moves.
After the season, Kane will be an unrestricted free agent. It's quite possible he'll sign elsewhere. So, it would be wise for him to leave Chicago now, giving him an opportunity to win a Stanley Cup with a contending team at the end of this season.
There should be plenty of teams interested in adding an offensive player as talented as Kane. LeBrun indicated that the New York Rangers and New York Islanders are "decent possibilities" as potential suitors.
Those teams are in a better position to win now. And by adding Kane to an already talented roster, either could become a legitimate Cup contender and go on a deep run come May and June.
First, though, he will have to be ready to move on from the only NHL franchise he's known. Considering he's played 1,109 games for the team and been entrenched in the city of Chicago, it's easy to see why that may be difficult.
However, it's the right move for Kane at this point in his career. And the Blackhawks would benefit from getting draft picks and/or prospects in return, so they should be ready to part ways, too.