The New York Islanders are in the middle of a busy offseason. After making an aggressive move to acquire defenseman Alexander Romanov from the Montreal Canadiens, general manager (GM) Lou Lamoriello has proven he is willing to make all the moves necessary to not only allow the team to bounce back next season but also compete for the Stanley Cup.
Conversely, the Chicago Blackhawks have entered the offseason with the mindset of starting over from scratch as part of a long and difficult rebuild. After hiring Luke Richardson as the head coach, GM Kyle Davidson traded Alex DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators and Kirby Dach to the Canadiens in exchange for draft selections. Both DeBrincat and Dach were top-six forwards with varying degrees of success in the NHL but both players being moved strongly signaled the direction the Blackhawks are heading in.
The next player on the Blackhawks roster that looks poised to be traded is Patrick Kane. The assistant captain and best player on the team can and will receive a strong return if he is traded but the Blackhawks will likely avoid moving him during the offseason.
Ideally, the Islanders Acquire Kane This Offseason
The Islanders are entering the upcoming season with an all-in mentality. With a veteran roster, a strong defense, and great goaltending, Lamoriello significantly upgraded the roster with the Romanov acquisition and further sent the message that the Islanders are looking to compete for the Stanley Cup in 2022-23.
Kane would be the perfect addition to the Islanders. With the forward unit in need of a puck distributor, the Blackhawks star would open up the ice and find skaters in the offensive zone. Moreover, with veteran goal scorers like Anders Lee and Brock Nelson, a puck facilitator like him would turn their offense into one of the best in the NHL and put the team over the top.
The Islanders can make their offer, but the problem is that the Blackhawks will be reluctant to move him, especially in the offseason. Granted, the Blackhawks are tearing down their roster and Kane will be a free agent at the end of next season. However, he has been a unique part of their success, so it won’t be an easy decision to send him out the door.
Kane Has Been the Face of the Franchise
The Blackhawks snapped a Stanley Cup title drought of 47 seasons when they won the 2010 Final against the Philadelphia Flyers. Furthermore, they won three titles in six seasons making them one of the modern dynasties in NHL history. A large part of their success was thanks to Kane’s playmaking ability along with other elite players like Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, and the recently retired Duncan Keith. Kane has been a pivotal part of the franchise and is the current face of the team, being arguably the best player on the roster now that Alex DeBrincat is in Ottawa. As a result, if Davidson eventually trades him, the return will be massive, potentially three or more pieces.
The Blackhawks starting next season with Kane on the roster will first off, attract fans but more importantly, make the team competitive and allow him to be a mentor for the younger players, specifically in the first half of the season. Granted, the team is projected to be one of the worst in the NHL next season but having the 33-year-old forward on the roster still provides stability, which is crucial on a younger roster. Keeping Kane also would allow the Blackhawks to move him at the trade deadline when it’s clear the team isn’t going to make the playoffs and instead is playing for the first-overall pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.
Blackhawks Remember the Hagel Trade
When the Blackhawks traded DeBrincat ahead of the draft, the deal was a tough blow considering they only received one first-round selection in return for one of their leading goal scorers in the 2021-22 season. In contrast, Brandon Hagel fielded two first-round picks at the trade deadline from the Tampa Bay Lightning. While he is a valuable forward on the second or third line, DeBrincat scored 41 goals last season and has scored 30 goals or more in three of the last four seasons, making him a significantly more valuable player.
The Hagel trade, while shocking, appeared to set the bar for any subsequent moves for the Blackhawks. However, the move is the exception and not the rule, as they received an overwhelming offer that they couldn’t refuse from a team desperate to make a run at a third-straight Stanley Cup.
Similarly, all it takes for the Blackhawks are a few desperate teams at the trade deadline looking to add an elite player like Kane. The Islanders will be one of them but the Lightning, Edmonton Oilers, and a handful of other teams looking for a puck distributor would eagerly make an offer too. Furthermore, the Buffalo Sabres could be a unique team in the Kane sweepstakes if they are in the position to reach the playoffs where they could acquire the hometown star and subsequently extend him.
How the Deadline Changes the Offer Lamoriello Makes
In the offseason, Lamoriello can move some of his younger players as part of a deal to acquire Kane. Specifically, forwards like Anthony Beauvillier would become building blocks for the Blackhawks and provide the team with an easier rebuild.
However, if the Islanders are competing for the Cup, Beauvillier will likely be a major part of the roster, making him a difficult player to move. Instead, the Islanders would add a handful of prospects and draft picks as part of an all-in effort, both of which come with their costs, but would motivate the Blackhawks at the deadline to move on from Kane.
Kane is and will continue to be one of the most intriguing players to watch in the offseason and throughout 2022-23. However, considering his value to the Blackhawks, even in a rebuild, the rest of the league will have to be patient when trying to acquire him.
Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November 2020 and covers the New York Islanders. In addition to covering the Islanders, Fink writes about the NHL at large and contributes as a weekly guest to The Hockey Writers Podcast. Follow Mike on Twitter @Finks_thoughts for more Islanders and general hockey insights.