Let’s take a look at four potential landing spots for Patrick Kane and what each team would need to make it happen.
The Chicago Blackhawks are undergoing one of the most extensive rebuilds in modern NHL history, selling off any asset with even a smidgeon of value for draft picks in an effort to lose as many games as possible.
And when it comes to value, Patrick Kane has plenty, both in the trade market and on the ice.
Despite his team’s inadequacy, the 33-year-old is coming off another massive offensive season and clearly has plenty to offer a club with championship aspirations.
But who might that be?
Let’s take a look at four realistic landing spots for Patrick Kane, as well as what each team would need to make it happen.
Cap Space in 2022-23: $19,604,166
Who wouldn’t want to be a member of their childhood team?
Kane, who was born in Buffalo and grew up idolizing the Sabres during the Dominik Hasek era, has been linked to the team for over a year. The good news is that the club appears to have dug themselves out of their decades-long rut and are on the path to future contention, armed with the prospect capital and draft picks capable of luring Kane away from Chicago.
The Sabres would not need to move any money at all. With nearly $20 million in cap space heading into next season, they could clone Kane and bring both of them in for almost no salary.
Of course, that technology does not yet exist, so we must be realistic. For the time being, one Kane will suffice.
The Sabres, out of all the teams vying for Kane’s services, could put together a package enticing enough to meet the Blackhawks’ requirements. The club has a plethora of young prospects who would immediately aid Chicago’s rebuilding efforts, as well as all three first-round picks in the next three drafts, as well as three second-round picks in 2023.
Not to mention, the Sabres have put together a decent little team to work with. Tage Thompson was a breakout star last season, Alex Tuch is another hometown product who fit in seamlessly, Jeff Skinner is back to being competent, Rasmus Dahlin is ready to take the next step, and the goaltending trio of Craig Anderson, Eric Comrie, and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is a competent goaltending group that should give their team a chance to win every night.
Maple Leafs of Toronto
Cap Space in 2022-23: -$1,493,116
Whatever you think of Toronto’s goaltending, the club made an effort this offseason to strengthen each position group by bringing in some potentially useful bodies at reasonable prices. They’re looking good one month out from training camp. Indeed, you could argue that the Maple Leafs’ lone remaining hole is at second line left wing, with Pierre Engvall, Alex Kerfoot, and unproven 21-year-old Nick Robertson all posing their own risks.
Of course, Kane is a right winger, so it’s not a perfect fit. When a talent like his is involved, you have to shuffle your deck to make it work — either by selling Kane on the benefits of playing his off wing alongside Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner on the first line while bumping Michael Bunting down to the second, or by moving William Nylander to the left on the second line to make room for Kane.
In either case, it is possible and would immediately catapult the Maple Leafs’ offense into the stratosphere of the NHL, giving them a top-six formation that rivals anyone in the league while also addressing their most pressing (non-goaltending) roster need.
It would, however, require some financial wizardry to pull off.
Kane’s annual salary is $10.5 million. To fit him under the cap, the Maple Leafs would have to find a way to get rid of Jake Muzzin’s $5.625 million salary without taking any money back, similar to how the Lightning did with Ryan McDonagh earlier this summer.
Despite his aging and injury-prone status, Muzzin remains an important member of Toronto’s leadership core and, when healthy, a valuable defenseman who can play in a variety of situations. That may cause the front office to reconsider dumping him for nothing.
After Muzzin is gone, the Maple Leafs would have to make Kerfoot’s $3.5 million look appealing to the Blackhawks’ top brass while also giving up at least one future first-round pick and, most likely, two top prospects. The Leafs are about as “win-now” as it gets, so gutting their organization for an elite offensive talent makes sense. However, under Kyle Dubas, the club has shown a reluctance to sell the farm for rentals, which is exactly what Kane would be.
Kane makes sense in Toronto, but getting him there will be more difficult.
Detroit Red Wings
Cap Space in 2022-23: $8,171,111
These Red Wings are no longer in the process of rebuilding. They’re going for it, ready to win with a much-improved roster of promising young players and seasoned veterans.
The Red Wings have the most financial wiggle room of any team focused on winning games next season, with over $8 million in cap space to spend on whatever upgrades they want. Kane would undoubtedly fit the bill, requiring approximately $3 million to be relocated to make the money work.
It’s at this point that Steve Yzerman might realize that paying Ben Chiarot nearly $5 million per year wasn’t the best idea. But enough of that!
The Red Wings wouldn’t have to work too hard to fit Kane’s contract onto their books, perhaps by combining a sweetener to Adam Erne’s $2.1 million cap hit with another guy making near league minimum — perhaps Jake Walman? — in exchange for a late-round pick.
The prospect of Kane playing alongside Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond is enticing for anyone, including Red Wings management. They could make it a reality with a little elbow grease.
Cap Space in 2022-23: $3,910,000
Isn’t this exactly the kind of move the Avalanche would make?
Following one of the most dominant Stanley Cup runs in modern NHL history, the Avs managed to reassemble most of the gang for another shot at the cup, albeit with the loss of Nazem Kadri.
Even without Kadri, the club’s top-six is quite strong. But the Avalanche are not the type of team to settle for anything less than perfection. Kane would vault them back to the top of the standings, allowing a player like Artturi Lehknonen to feast on bottom-six matchups and effectively lengthen their already deep roster.
They also have the most valuable asset any team can have nowadays: cap space.
Making it happen will be difficult, as is customary. But it’s also not as difficult as one might think.
Any potential Kane trade is entirely dependent on the Avalanche’s ability to shed Erik Johnson’s $6 million cap hit without taking any money back. Of course, with Johnson being a below-replacement-level player whose constant bouts with injury have robbed him of his footspeed, that’s a Herculean task. Convincing another team to take on his entire salary for 2022-23 would require the sweetest of all sweeteners – a price that the Avalanche, who have only four total picks in each of the next two drafts, may not be able to pay.
Joe Sakic and company, on the other hand, can thread that needle. Don’t dismiss the possibility.