What is Patrick Kane worth in trading?
This is a tough question. Are we talking about an open market of 31 teams? Is this off season, early in the season or in the trade deadline? Is Ken healthy? Is it just rent or can he re-sign somewhere?
There’s no doubt that Kane must be of good value, with the exact value varying based on those variables. Even with doubts due to his nagging hip injury this season, he’s shown he can still elevate his game to the elite level. In his last four games for the Blackhawks, he scored seven goals and added three assists. still that man. Still worth a lot.
The Black Hawks sure thought so. They believed Kane should be a first-round draft pick and top prospect if he waived the no-movement clause—at least.
How did you come to this? How Blackhawks General Manager Kyle Davidson got a conditional second-round pick in 2023 — who could become a first player in 2024 or only 2025 if the Rangers reach the conference final in the ridiculously loaded Eastern Conference — and a 2023 fourth-rounder to the greatest Player in franchise history, player less than a year into a 92-point season? And how was that actually better than most of the hockey world expected?
Well, trades depend on leverage. And the Black Hawks had none.
“It is what it is,” said a Western Conference executive, who granted anonymity so he could speak freely about another team. “They got something, which is more than they get from (Jonathan) Toews’ expired contract. You have to make the most of what you’re given. It gave them one team to work with.”
Perhaps the Blackhawks could have gotten the package they want if two things had happened. First, Kane needed to give the Blackhawks at least a few weeks to negotiate with the teams. The trading season started much earlier than usual this year, with Bo Horvat, one of the biggest names available, moving to the Islanders on January 30th. Second, Kane needed to give the Blackhawks some destinations he’d like to go to in Togo.
The Black Hawks thought those two things could happen at the beginning of February. Based on what Kane and his agent, Pat Bryson, said, the Blackhawks remained optimistic.
But then time passed.
While Kane was pondering his decision, the other teams weren’t waiting. Big names kept coming off the board. Notably, the New York Rangers acquired Vladimir Tarasenko for the kind of package — which included a first-round pick — the Blackhawks were hoping for. This has always been Kane’s #1 destination. He’s been a relatively close market to his parents in Western New York, and his combination with former teammate Artemi Panarin (who helped him win the Hart Award as the 2016 Major League Player of the Year) will give him another shot at the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Kane’s surprisingly honest reaction to the Tarasenko deal, which seemed to rule out Rangers as a possible destination for Kane, changed the dynamic, however. Kane said he was “not, like, the happiest” to hear about the trade, and admitted emphatically that he was “intrigued” by the idea of playing for the Rangers. And Rangers GM Chris Drury certainly saw that. There were other teams interested in Kane – such as Dallas, Carolina, Vegas and Edmonton – but it became clear that Kane only had an interest in New York. And the guards knew it.
Further destroying any leverage Davidson had, Kane’s disappointment was not accompanied by a decision. And so more time passed. And more players were traded around the league in the first round.
Not that anyone would say it publicly, but there was growing frustration within the Black Hawk organization over Kane’s indecision. Equally important, the sense about the league from the other suitors was that Kane was equally frustrated, if not outright angry, that the Blackhawks were all forcing him out the door by going scorched earth on the roster in a scorching tank. Davidson traded Alex DeBrinkat and let Dylan Strom leave as a free agent over the summer. These were Ken’s buddies and close friends on the team, and Ken took it personally, making him less inclined to help the Blackhawks maximize the value of their trade. Rangers wanted. And he was determined to get the Rangers.
So with the deadline approaching, Kane wanted to see if the Rangers were still a potential. They were really interested, but they weren’t going to concede too much, as they did in Tarasenko’s trade. Especially with no competition.
While Brisson and the Rangers were having talks, the Blackhawks weren’t sure what was going to happen. They were preparing for anything and everything. They knew that time was running out to strike the kind of deal they hoped for.
It wasn’t until Kane called Davidson on Friday night that the organization knew for sure what Kane really wanted: He’d waive his no-movement clause to be traded to the Rangers. And only the Rangers.
“I was capped by San Jose before we moved on from that game,” said Davidson. “Yeah, a couple of emotional conversations in San Jose. That’s kind of where it all came to a head.”
Davidson went on to work with Drury. Davidson set his price, but Drury offered less in return and wouldn’t budge much. Drury had the clout and he knew it. He knew the Rangers were the only team Kane would accept a trade with. He also knew that the Blackhawks would do everything they could to make this happen for Kane. From Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz to Chief Commercial Officer Jaime Faulkner to Davidson, the Blackhawks have been publicly stating for some time that they would do right by Kane and Toews if they wanted to be traded.
That left Davidson with minimal bargaining power. He couldn’t get away from trading, even if he wanted to. It was an organizational mandate not to hold Beijing against his wishes. Once Kane said out loud that he wanted a trade, Davidson would follow through. This relationship – past, present and future – is very important to the organization.
Therefore, Davidson fought for what he could. The fact that Davidson earned a conditional second-round pick may have been a victory for the Blackhawks, given that Drury could have offered much less, and Davidson probably should have accepted.
In the end, Davidson knows Ken’s worth more than that.
Drury does, too.
But that was the offer, and the Black Hawks felt they had to accept it – as much for Kane’s sake as it was for their own. So they did.
“If you look at it from a pure hockey standpoint and from a return of assets standpoint, it probably doesn’t count,” said Davidson. “But given the circumstances and the situation, we achieved what we wanted, and that was to put Patrick in the team he wants to go to. That’s the main objective here: we hope to get some assets here, which we feel we’ve done, but mainly it’s been paying off a player who’s done so much.” For the sake of privilege.
(Photo: Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images)
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