Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane figures to be the biggest name available at this year's NHL trade deadline as the team continues to march forward with its massive rebuild.
Even though the Blackhawks are off to a stronger-than-expected start, there should be little confidence that will continue. Their 5-on-5 possession numbers are among the worst in the league, the roster is short on depth, and they have been carried so far by a surprising performance by their revolving door of goalies.
Kane figures to be on the trade block at some point, given the nature of the team's rebuild and his status as an unrestricted free agent after this season.
If Chicago did not have a long-term use for somebody like Alex DeBrincat, it probably should not be trying to re-sign a soon-to-be 34-year-old Kane to a long-term deal. Sometimes you have to turn the page and start over, even if it means parting with a player that helped you win several championships.
In recent years, the Blackhawks have said goodbye to several core players, whether through trade or free agency. Kane will simply be next in that line.
The question then becomes, what should the Blackhawks expect in return, and which teams might have the assets (and salary cap space) to acquire him?
There are a couple of factors working against the Blackhawks when it comes to assessing his value.
The first is his contract. His $10.5 million salary cap hit for the season is one of the largest in the league, and not every team has the flexibility to bring that on board. However, the Blackhawks can help by retaining up to 50 percent of his salary.
And as a pending unrestricted free agent, Kane would almost certainly be a rental for any team that does get him. While he is still a dynamic offensive player, especially on the power play, he is not quite the same as he was at his peak and has limited value beyond his ability to produce points.
Furthermore, Kane has a complete no-trade clause and holds all the cards in determining where he goes.
It is pretty much the exact scenario the Philadelphia Flyers saw last year with Claude Giroux. That trade ultimately brought them a 2023 third-round pick, a conditional 2024 first-round pick and a younger NHLer in Owen Tippett.
That is probably the baseline the Blackhawks and their fans should be expecting. So which team is best positioned to meet that price? Let's dig in.
New York Rangers
The Rangers have been rumored to be in the Kane market for more than a year now, and they would seem to be a strong fit for the 16-year veteran.
After reaching the Eastern Conference Final a year ago, they are obviously in a win-now mode, and they have a lot of the pieces to build a championship-caliber team.
They also have the assets to pull off a trade for somebody like Kane.
The Rangers still have one of the deepest collections of young talent in the league while also owning two first-round draft picks in the 2023 class after acquiring a conditional pick from the Dallas Stars for defenseman Nils Lundkvist.
That pick is top-10 protected, but given how well the Stars have played this season and how strong they look, the probability of that pick being in the top 10 is extraordinarily low.
One of those picks would almost certainly be a starting point for a player like Kane.