Top Trades, Landing Spots for Patrick Kane
They went there.
The Chicago Blackhawks, in a message to fans, used the r-word when discussing the future.
For fans of a franchise that won three Stanley Cups in a five-year stretch as recently as 2010-15, it's a disheartening state of affairs. And for the handful of veterans—namely Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, who have hung around since playing vital roles in securing those championship banners—it might be even worse: grounds for divorce, perhaps.
The Blackhawks have already said goodbye to two "popular, two-time champions" this offseason, sending forward Brandon Saad to the Colorado Avalanche in a trade and allowing goaltender Corey Crawford to exit via free agency and ultimately sign with the New Jersey Devils.
Chicago hasn't won a playoff series since clinching the 2014-15 Cup, though it did defeat the Edmonton Oilers in the qualifying round this summer before falling to the Vegas Golden Knights in five games.
Toews told The Athletic on October 11 that he had "never been told [by team brass] that we were going through a rebuild." That prompted general manager Stan Bowman to suggest to ESPN that the conjecture about the team's future has been a misunderstanding and that he's reached out to veteran players to let them know there's "really no change in direction."
Nevertheless, where there's smoke, there may be enough friction to start a fire. And that was enough cause for the B/R ice hockey team to sidle up with a log or two in the form of a list of ideal spots if the team decides to move on from the 31-year-old Kane, who had 84 points in 70 games in 2019-20.
Take a look at what we've come up with, and let us know what you think with a comment or two.
Just when you had gotten used to the Buffalo Sabres being irrelevant...wham!
Dubious holders of the league's longest active playoff drought (nine seasons), the Sabres made the most surprising splash of the 2020 offseason by getting former MVP Taylor Hall to sign a one-year deal worth $8 million.
Hall joins incumbent star Jack Eichel to bring instant credibility to the Buffalo attack, and it just so happens that Kane is a Western New York native who still lives in the area during the offseason. He even brought the Stanley Cup to nearby Niagara Falls after the Blackhawks won it in 2010.
In other words, he's a perfect fit.
Particularly on a team with a few million dollars in cap space.
Naturally, it would take quite a bit in return for the deal to get done—to say nothing of Kane's no-movement clause—but perhaps a package of young talent like 24-year-old forward Sam Reinhart, 21-year-old forward Casey Mittelstadt and a high draft pick or two could get the negotiation balls rolling.
If the prospect of spending winters in Buffalo doesn't titillate Kane, how about Miami?
It's not difficult to envision a lifelong northerner like Kane trading snow shovels for sun screen and agreeing to join the league's southernmost franchise if the Blackhawks were to swing a deal with the Florida Panthers.
The Panthers were 15th overall in points percentage last season, eight slots ahead of Chicago, but they were dumped from the qualifying round by the seventh-seeded New York Islanders.
Still, they are coached by Joel Quenneville, who led Kane and the Blackhawks to their three most recent titles. They also have a fine selection of rising talent like 27-year-old winger Jonathan Huberdeau (78 points in 2019-20) and 25-year-old center Aleksander Barkov (62 points in 2019-20).
As for trading pieces, there's plenty more youth to head Chicago's way.
Spencer Knight was the 13th pick in the 2019 draft and could provide the Blackhawks with goaltending stability in the future, while forward Owen Tippett was selected 10th overall two years earlier and scored a goal in his initial NHL stint before potting 19 in 46 games during his first extended stay in the AHL with the Springfield Thunderbirds last season.
Put them together with a first-rounder in 2021, and it may be time for Kane to work on his tan.
Georges Laraque was a big deal as an NHL enforcer.
And these days as a radio host, he's proposing big deals when it comes to trades.
The former on-ice tough guy discussed Kane and the Montreal Canadiens in the aftermath of Chicago's rebuild announcement, suggesting the Habs could be a destination if they are willing to part with prospects (h/t gohabsgo.com).
The Canadiens were a surprise in the 2019-20 playoffs, defeating the fifth-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins in the qualifying round before pushing the top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers to six games in the first round.
Finnish center Jesperi Kotkaniemi was picked third overall by Montreal in 2018 and has scored 17 goals in 115 games through parts of two seasons, while winger Cole Caufield was the 15th overall selection a year later and has been a point-per-game player in high school, with the U.S. National Development program and in one season at the University of Wisconsin.
Another future draft choice could round out a blue-chip prospect haul for the Blackhawks, alongside the requisite financial/personnel maneuvering to equal Kane's annual salary. Or perhaps Bowman could pull the trigger on a simple high-profile contract exchange with Kane going for goaltender Carey Price, a 33-year-old former Vezina Trophy winner who, like Kane, makes $10.5 million per season.
New York Islanders
The New York Islanders were among the biggest surprises of the NHL playoffs.
They used good goaltending, sound defensive play and speedy opportunism up front to win postseason series against the Florida Panthers, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers before falling to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning in a six-game Eastern Conference finale.
But to extend themselves past one-year wonder status, they will need some consistent reinforcement.
A still-prime Kane would blend nicely with the Isles' core, and the team could use its elite prospects to assemble a package worthy of the Blackhawks' attention.
American-born winger Oliver Wahlstrom is a towering 6'1" and 205 pounds and was picked 11th overall in 2018, one selection ahead of defenseman Noah Dobson, who had seven points in 34 games with New York in 2019-20. Goaltender Ilya Sorokin, meanwhile, signed a $2 million contract extension in July and is considered one of the best netminders not already playing regularly in the NHL.
It would be a big switch for sure, but putting Kane in the mix on a Barry Trotz team would be worth a watch.
Kane was a near miss for the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Flyers were set to pick first in the 2007 draft, while the Blackhawks were seeded fifth.
But in the new era of the lottery, that didn't matter. The Blackhawks came out the winner and selected Kane, while Philadelphia dropped to the No. 2 slot and went with James van Riemsdyk.
Three years later, Kane scored the goal that beat the Flyers to win the 2010 Stanley Cup.
So while it's hard to imagine the Conn Smythe Trophy winner forwarding his mail to Broad Street, it's not unusual for Philadelphia GM Chuck Fletcher to inject himself into significant trade talk.
A player of Kane's caliber would surely fit the bill, though considering the Flyers have just $4.8 million in cap space, it would take some creative accounting. That could mean the likes of defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere ($4.5 million per year) and/or forward Travis Konecny ($5.5 million per year), not to mention a draft pick or two to sweeten the pot.