It’s only a matter of time until Patrick Kane is back on the ice in the NHL, but the question is: Where will he be playing?
The 34-year-old’s offseason hip surgery paused his return to action, and while part of the reason he remains unsigned is he’s not ready to play just yet, there’s also the question of how he’ll perform when he’s back.
Kane is a future Hall of Famer and one of the best American players of all time. He has won the Stanley Cup three times and was the league MVP in 2016.
However, he will turn 35 on November 19, and players that age don’t generally light it up the way they used to. But he’s skating and working his way back, something his agents were eager to share recently:
Kane is likely to sign for an NHL club at some point in the near future, though, and we’re going to take a look at seven teams where his name has come up before and just how things might play out if he ends up there.
Fans have been trying to mash Buffalo-born Kane and his hometown team together for years now. With the veteran a free agent and the Sabres on the rise, the fervor to put the two of them together hasn’t abated at all.
Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet noted that Buffalo is a team to keep an eye on for Kane, which means the discussion about it isn’t about to quiet down any time soon. And there’s good enough reason for smoke beyond his obvious attachment to the city and the team.
Kane played for Sabres head coach Don Granato while in Chicago, where he was an assistant coach. He was also a teammate of Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams during his rookie season with Chicago, and Adams was Kane’s roommate on the road to help the then 19-year-old along in his early days in the NHL. They also have $9.2 million in cap space, which is more than enough to ink him.
The biggest question for Buffalo, though, is whether he’s a fit on the roster.
If there’s one area the Sabres need sprucing up, it’s on defense, and Kane isn’t exactly a defensive stalwart.
Buffalo will also get Jack Quinn back from injury in December or January, which would take away a place in the lineup for the veteran.
Kane doesn’t feel like he’s a fit right now, not to mention the Sabres aren’t a Stanley Cup contender, something that should be a heavy factor in his decision.
Of the teams that looked into acquiring Kane at the trade deadline last season, the Dallas Stars were one of the more curious ones.
Emily Kaplan of ESPN reported in February that the Stars pursued Kane, but he ultimately chose to go to the Rangers instead. Now that he is a free agent and it’s a new season entirely, the thought of Kane in Dallas is intriguing yet again.
Like many teams we’ll discuss here, the Stars don’t exactly have the cap space to add him ($457K), and figuring out a way to do that would involve some tricky choices—and finding the right place for him in the lineup would also need to be a creative decision.
The Stars are built like a team ready to win the Stanley Cup right now, which would be an attractive feature for Kane. Thing is, where do you put him in the lineup? He plays right wing, and Dallas plenty of versatile players who can play center or wing throughout its lineup.
The Stars are loaded and messing with the lineup to accommodate him could make things unnecessarily difficult. Still, it’s Patrick Kane we’re talking about, and if Dallas wants another offensive dynamo, that’s an easy play…provided it can find the cap space.
If there’s something we’ve learned about the Florida Panthers in recent years, it’s that they’ll do whatever they think will work best to make them a better team.
If they were to add Kane, it would be one of the bigger, bolder moves they’ve made.
Friedman said Florida was hot on the chase for Kane in the summer and those efforts could help land him just in time to give the Panthers a huge lift. They could use him on the wing, and they can make it happen relatively easily.
While they’ve got Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Reinhart on the right side, things get a bit questionable beyond that.
Rookies Justin Sourdif and Mackie Samoskevich and veteran Steven Lorentz play the right wing lower in the lineup, and the Panthers just signed Jonah Gadjovich to a one-year deal up front as well.
They have bodies, but they don’t have a certified threat. Perhaps Sourdif or Samoskevich get there in time, but Kane would give them an immediate upgrade and a player to help their power play as well.
The Atlantic Division is going to be brutally competitive, and if Kane comes back in great form and resembles his old self even just a little, that’s a huge pickup and would give a team that went to the Stanley Cup Final a year ago a player who’s won it several times over.
The New York Rangers got a bit of a stunted version of an all-time great player last season because of the hip issues Kane addressed in offseason surgery.
Would a healthier version of him be the kind of player they need to put them over the top against the Devils or Hurricanes in the Metropolitan Division? It depends on what you think of younger players Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafrenière or veteran Blake Wheeler, really.
At 36, Wheeler came in as a ready-to-play veteran who was freshly bought out by Winnipeg and signed on the cheap for the at-the-cap Rangers. Kakko and Lafrenière will get full fresh looks from new coach Peter Laviolette, and they’re relatively inexpensive players, too.
If Kane rejoined New York, it would have to get creative with its payroll. It’s pushing the upper limit hard, and the veteran might be more of a luxury pickup at this point. Finding a way to add him would require other moves to be made or an injury.
Still, they managed to add both Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko last year, so if they want to re-add Kane, they’ll find a way. The trickier part, though, might be finding the right line to play him on, which may come at the expense of a younger player like Will Cuylle or a veteran elsewhere in the lineup.
One of the biggest factors in where Kane will sign is whether a team is a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, and one club that could be of interest to him would be the New Jersey Devils.
They are one of the heavier favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference and challenge for the Cup, and Kane’s playmaking ability and legacy as a scorer makes him a natural fit in a lineup that already has some elite centers for him to work alongside in Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier.
The Devils have a bit of cap space to work with ($1.7 million), and depending on what Kane would require to sign, they could bring him in with minimal headaches. They could also fit him into the lineup relatively easily as a right wing. The right side has Jesper Bratt locked in with Ondrej Palat and Alexander Holtz in their top three lines. Kane could fit in there and also find a home on their power play as well.
The catch with New Jersey, however, is whether it really needs Kane. It would be a luxury pickup and would be almost a preventative signing to make sure he doesn’t end up helping a competitor.
New Jersey’s big arrival in the offseason up front was winger Tyler Toffoli, who was a solid addition via trade. But, if Kane can help the Devils attack score even more goals, it would be difficult for most teams to hang with them all season and into the playoffs.
The Detroit Red Wings have been desperate to get back to the playoffs, and they’ve made that apparent this year.
When they acquired Alex DeBrincat from Ottawa to boost their offense, it was yet another clear sign they’re going for it in a big way to end their modest playoff drought.
And while the 25-year-old is a great addition, the fact that a former teammate who helped him score a ton of goals in Chicago is available makes signing Kane very tempting.
The Wings have $4.6 million in cap space and a lineup that’s malleable enough that they could add Kane and not have it shake things up to a questionable degree. If nothing else, he could deepen their offensive attack substantially where there are still some question marks about where the goals might come from.
Think about it: Kane on the right wing, DeBrincat on the left and Dylan Larkin in the middle. That’s pretty exciting.
A move like that would slide Lucas Raymond to the second line, and suddenly Detroit would be looking at having two dangerous scoring lines that can make it a nightmare for opposing defenses.
It also might make life difficult for the Red Wings’ own defense, but goals are good. And if Kane can unlock another 40-goal season for DeBrincat in the process, that will go a long way to helping Detroit return to the playoffs.
This might seem like a bit of a different fit for Kane, but picturing him with the Carolina Hurricanes kind of makes sense.
Sportsnet’s Ryan Dixon suggested the idea in preseason, and the more you ponder it, the more it computes. The Hurricanes have some cap space to play with ($2.8 million), and while their lineup is pretty water-tight, Kane is a bit of offensive chaos to throw into the mix.
Picture the veteran next to Sebastian Aho to really make the attack pop, or with Jesperi Kotkaniemi or Jordan Staal on the wing to help cover for Kane’s defensive liabilities and also let him give their offensive games a lift.
Carolina tried this last season in a way with Max Pacioretty only to have an injury crush those hopes.
What Kane could do as an offensive spark plug at five-on-five and on the power play for a team that’s already rife with explosive scorers could be the kind of thing that helps Carolina finally get back to the Cup Final and maybe get the Canes their first trophy since 2006.
Salary-cap information via CapFriendly.