The Chicago Blackhawks spent the summer tearing down, leaving just the two cornerstone veterans Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews left from the glory days of their three Stanley Cups throughout the 2010s. Now, Kane might be the next man to get shipped out of town as the Blackhawks continue their rebuilding process.
Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers front office just spent the summer avoiding adding talent to the roster at all costs, passing up on fellow Blackhawk Alex DeBrincat and turning away hometown hero Johnny Gaudreau. Passing up on that kind of talent has naturally left the Flyers’ roster very underwhelming, so they’ll theoretically be looking to acquire some veteran talent sometime in 2023 to help guide the team forward, and few players bring the experience and talent like Patrick Kane.
Kane is a nine-time all-star and three-time Stanley Cup champion has 1,205 points in 1,139 games, not to mention a Hart Trophy, a Conn Smythe as well as an Art Ross in his resumé. He’s 34 years old and on an expiring eight-year, $84 million contract and will more than likely hit free agency for the first time in his career.
Does it make sense for the Flyers to pursue Kane at either the trade deadline or when he hits the open market during the summer or should they pass on him all together? Let’s weigh some options.
An actual top player
The Flyers need talent, and there are few players that are as electric as Patrick Kane. Sitting well above a point-per-game pace over 1,100 NHL games is pretty impressive. At this point in his career, he’s far more of a playmaker than a goalscorer, but he did register 26 goals in 2021-22, not to mention the 92 total points he scored last season. He’s been over a point-per-game player in each of the last four seasons and currently sits just shy of that with 25 points in 32 games during the 2022-23 campaign.
Short term contract
Unlike other wingers in the free agent market like David Pastrnak and Vladimir Tarasenko, Patrick Kane’s age could work in the favor of the Flyers by signing him to a two or three year deal. Squeezing out the last little bit of talent while not committing to yet another player for the next decade should be the kind of move the Flyers look for these days. He’ll turn 35 shortly after the start of next season, so a two or maybe three year deal would be ideal.
Dibs on re-signing
If the Flyers were to land Kane at the trade deadline instead of waiting for free agency, they would play out the last month of the season with the team and the Flyers could do their best to get him under contract before the offseason rolls around.
Many people will turn their noses up at Patrick Kane for his shady track record of past run-ins with the law. A disorderly conduct charge in 2009 and a sexual assault investigation in 2015 leaves a very sour taste in the mouths of fans. And that’s not even considering potential role he played in the Kyle Beach scandal. Now, it’s hard for Flyers to take the moral high ground on this one considering they willing paid up for Tony DeAngelo last summer, but considering the reputation of the Flyers is already in the toilet because of the general tailspin they’ve been in for years, it may be best to not willingly do anymore damage to an already fractured identity.
Is this the player to give up assets for?
The Flyers don’t really have an abundance of assets they can part with, and Kane will no doubt have a high price tag before he would hit free agency, so is he the right guy if they can only splurge on one player? Even though his production is still at a high level, he’s also 34 years old and probably doesn’t have a ton of tread left on his career. He may be a top guy for another couple years, but would those assets go further acquiring, say, 26-year-old Timo Meier in San Jose?
Can he still go?
Even though Kane’s offensive production hasn’t slowed tremendously yet, his underlying numbers are pretty damn ugly. The question becomes whether or not he himself is slowing down or are his numbers the result of playing on a very bad Blackhawks squad? Can the Flyers afford to pursue a player like Kane and pay him every last penny they can assemble only for his talent tank to be tapped?
The Flyers should be a relatively desperate team when it comes to adding legitimate talent to their roster either at the trade deadline or the 2023 offseason and Patrick Kane is one of the biggest stars available. Putting Kane on the wings of players like Joel Farabee, Tyson Foerster, Owen Tippett, or Cutter Gauthier should only make them better, serving as a spark plug to light the rest of the anemic offense.
The analytics crowd has turned on Kane pretty hard this year, and admittedly his numbers from that perspective aren’t great, but it’s hard to believe he posted 92 points last season and has been over a point-per-game player over the last four seasons only for him to totally forget how to play hockey this season. He’s in his mid-30’s now, so obviously it’s only a matter of time before the decline starts, but it’s also safe to say that this season, for now, can be chalked up to the state of the Blackhawks rather than the player individually.
Though the Flyers, desperate for talent, throwing big cash, or as much as this strapped team can muster, at someone like Kane only for his downfall to be real is so on brand these days.
There’s clearly no line from a PR perspective the Flyers wouldn’t cross. If they can justify acquiring then trying their best to repair the image of Tony DeAngelo, it’d be hard to believe they’d draw the line at Kane. Pissing off the fanbase doesn’t phase them like you’d imagine and being completely tone deaf to yet another problematic player shouldn’t be a surprise move.
There’s a good chance the Flyers don’t attempt to steal him at the trade deadline. They just don’t have the assets to spend willy nilly for a player that could just very well leave in free agency, especially when the playoffs aren’t even remotely a possibility.
If Patrick Kane hits free agency, it’d be pretty hard to believe the Flyers wouldn’t at least throw their hat in the ring. Kane would be the prototypical player they’ve pursued in years past, a player on his last legs with a questionable reputation that they can give a contract to that reflects what he was versus what he is going to be. He’s more than likely going to be slightly cheaper and a shorter term deal than other free agents out there, which alone would make him a favorable option to a team that is going to struggle accumulating the funds to enter the free agent market with any kind of legitimacy in the first place, but maybe it’s best to just let Kane slip through their fingers and look elsewhere for upgrades at forward.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com