It was a move that was months in the making. During the 2021 NHL Draft, the Chicago Blackhawks traded Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach for draft capital, signaling the start of a rebuild. That led to a big question: would the Blackhawks eventually trade franchise icon Patrick Kane?
That question was finally answered on Tuesday, when the Chicago Blackhawks traded Kane to the New York Rangers for a conditional 2023 second-round pick and a 2023 fourth-round pick. If the Rangers end up winning two playoff series in 2023, the conditional second-round pick will become a first-round pick in either 2024 or 2025.
The move marks the end of an era for one of the greatest players to ever wear a Blackhawks sweater, and one of the greatest American-born NHL players period. Kane's accolades speak for themselves. He helped the Blackhawks win three Stanley Cups (2010, 2013, 2015) and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP during Chicago's championship run in 2013.
In 16 seasons with the Blackhawks, Kane ranks second in points (1,225), second in assists (779), third in goals (446), third in games played (1,161), fourth in power-play goals (122) and fourth in game-winning goals (67). Among American-born players, Kane ranks fourth in points (1,225), fourth in assists (779), and seventh in goals (446).
So, with all the history between player and team, was this the right move for the Blackhawks? The answer is a resounding yes -- for both parties.
Kane is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and likely wasn't going to re-sign with the Blackhawks. Shortly after the 2023-24 season begins, Kane will turn 35, which means that there may not be a ton of tread left on the tires. During his final productive years, it's not farfetched to assume that Kane wants to play for a contender, hence facilitating a trade to the Rangers.
From the Blackhawks' standpoint, it isn't a terrible haul. Chicago received two draft picks for a player that was going to leave anyway (and with the additions of Vladimir Tarasenko and Kane to a forward group that already includes Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad, there's fairly high probability that New York can make a deep playoff, meaning one of those draft picks Chicago now owns will turn into a first rounder).
On top of that, Kane held all the cards, since he had a no-trade clause in his contract. Kane basically dictated where he wanted to get traded to, so Chicago's options were extremely limited. As the Blackhawks now very clearly look towards the future, where exactly does moving Kane leave them?
Quick release is an understatement here 👀— Regina Pats (@WHLPats) February 23, 2023
Off Bedard's stick and into the back of the net in a split second!
We lead 3-1.#LegendsInTheMaking | #CB98 | #NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/EIqwSuN6DJ
Kane off the roster definitely improves Chicago's chances of having the NHL's worst record and getting a higher percentage of landing the No. 1 pick -- and with it, potential generational star Connor Bedard. Bedard has taken the hockey world by storm over the past year. He has recorded a ridiculous 114 points (54 goals and 60 assists) in 45 games for the Regina Pats in the Western Hockey League this season.
According to Money Puck, the Blackhawks currently have a 14.5 percent chance to win the 2023 NHL Draft Lottery, the third-best odds behind only the Columbus Blue Jackets (17.7 percent) and Anaheim Ducks (15.2 percent). Entering Wednesday, the Blackhawks are tied with the Ducks for the second-fewest points (47) in the NHL. Only the Blue Jackets have less points with 46 to their credit.
Chicago accomplished that with Kane on its roster for the majority of the season. With Kane, forward Sam Lafferty and defenseman Jake McCabe now gone, there could be several more losses on the horizon before the regular season comes to a close.
Moving an aging Kane and replacing him with Bedard would certainly be a dream scenario, to say the least, for Chicago -- if it happens.