For the first time in nearly a decade, Patrick Kane is set to test unrestricted free agency on Jul. 1 after a disappointing playoff run with the New York Rangers. Kane signed a mammoth eight-year, $84 million contract with the Chicago Blackhawks back in 2014, and won his third Stanley Cup with the team in 2015.
A perennial juggernaut for over a decade, the Hawks are now in full rebuild mode, and Kane was dealt to the Rangers at the NHL Trade Deadline. The hopes were high in New York, but after opening up a 2-0 series lead on the New Jersey Devils, they folded, losing in seven games to their Metropolitan Division rivals.
Patrick Kane now has a big decision to make. He's set to undergo surgery that will cost him at least a month of the 2023-24 season. He's already won three Stanley Cups. At this point, he has nothing left to prove in the NHL, but it's clear he still has a strong desire to join a winning team for the next stage of his career.
Here are four potential landing spots for the 34-year-old when free agency kicks off on Jul. 1.
4. New York Rangers
Although it was not the way Patrick Kane probably envisioned the 2022-23 season ending when he was traded to the Rangers, there is still an avenue for him to return to to the team.
“I would love to be back. If I can feel better, with this team and this opportunity, I'd love that chance,” Kane said during exit interviews in early May.
"I would love to be back. If I can feel better, with this team and this opportunity, I'd love that chance."
Patrick Kane on potentially returning to the Rangers next season: pic.twitter.com/n8bbhjRAA7
— Rangers Videos (@SNYRangers) May 3, 2023
Kane also admitted that he had been nagged by a lower-body injury which will require surgery this summer. He'll look to start the season around November or so, and obviously his health and ability will be under the microscope when that happens. Although Chris Drury does not have a lot of cap space to work with, Kane made it clear he's interested in returning, so there's certainly potential for a reunion between the two sides this July.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pittsburgh Penguins absolutely have a need for a top-six winger this offseason, especially with Jason Zucker likely gone, and Patrick Kane would undoubtedly look excellent on a line centred by either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. No active player has more Stanley Cups than any of these three players, and although the Penguins core is aging, all three of Crosby, Malkin and Kane are still stars in this league.
Kyle Dubas would be wise to use some of the $20 million in cap space the Penguins are projected to have to at least kick the tires on Kane. All it would take is for a few risky moves like signing Kane to pay off and the Pens could be a Stanley Cup contender again in 2023-24.
2. Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes have struggled to get over the hump in the postseason, reaching three Eastern Conference Finals since 2009 and being swept in all of them, most recently against the Florida Panthers in 2023. Patrick Kane has the experience and the pedigree, and could be just the scoring winger that could take them to the next level.
The Canes have $27 million in projected cap space, and could have various players leave in free agency including Jordan Staal, Jesper Fast and Max Pacioretty. There is certainly a need for a scoring winger, and the fit is there as Carolina is one of the top teams in the NHL. They could really use another star player to help them get to the next level, and Patty Kane fits the bill.
1. Buffalo Sabres
The Buffalo Sabres took a major step in the right direction this season, missing the playoffs by only one point. But the future is bright in Buffalo, as the team is young, they have plenty of cap space available, and they figure to get even better in 2023-24. This could be the perfect time for the Sabres to bring the hometown kid back to Buffalo.
A veteran and three-time Stanley Cup champion like Patrick Kane would be the perfect ingredient on the roster to help mentor the young players. He would be a great addition to the top-six and first powerplay, and would look absolutely electric on a line next to Tage Thompson.
Although the Sabres are probably a few years away from Stanley Cup contention, they will absolutely be knocking on the door of a playoff spot as they try to break the longest postseason drought in the NHL. It would certainly make a lot of sense for Kane to head home and sign a multi-year deal in Western New York.
Only time will tell if Patty Kane decides to re-up with the New York Rangers, but if that doesn't end up happening, don't be surprised to see the star American play for one of the Penguins, Hurricanes or Sabres next season.