Patrick Kane destinations: Sabres, Red Wings among potential landing spots for free agent winger

The NHL’s version of “The Decision” is almost here, as free agent winger Patrick Kane is closing in on signing with a team for the 2023-24.

OK, maybe it’s not nearly as big as LeBron James’ NBA free agency choice in 2010, but it’s close. Kind of. Maybe tens years ago when Kane was in the middle of his prime, but I digress. 

The three-time Stanley Cup champion has been on the market since the turn of the new season. The longtime Blackhawks star was traded last year at the deadline, as Kane wanted another shot at winning a Cup and was not interested in sticking around for Chicago’s rebuild. He went to the Rangers, but New York was knocked out in the first round of the playoffs leaving Kane to hit free agency for the first time in his career. 

It was announced during the summer that the winger would be undergoing surgery on his hip and that he likely would not make a decision until he was ready for a return. That’s exactly how things played out, as the start of the season began with Kane not on an NHL roster, continuing to rehab from the offseason operation. 

It’s no secret that Kane isn’t the offensive dynamo he was in his prime. He’s always been a defensive liability, but it’s stuck out more in recent years with his production on the decline. It’s hard to say how much the hip injury affected his short time with the Rangers, but Kane was far from impressive in the Big Apple. 

Regardless, the 35-year-old is ready to get back on the ice, and there are no shortages of interested suitors. Despite Kane’s camp trying to keep everything hush-hush, the rumors and reports have been flying ever since the start of the campaign. It was reported that Kane could make a decision before Thanksgiving, but the holiday came and went without any news of a deal, however it is expected to come soon

MORE: Ranking the NHL’s top 50 players for the 2023-24 season

Here are some potential landing spots for Kane as he gets set to return to the NHL. 

Patrick Kane potential destinations

Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres have a leg up on everyone when it comes to the Kane sweepstakes. The reason? The winger is a Buffalo native, having grown up in the southern part of the city. He has been connected to the Sabres dating back to last season when the rumors of an inevitable breakup between Kane and the Blackhawks began to surface, and Buffalo has plenty of cap space to sign the wing this time around. 

Bringing in Kane would greatly help Buffalo’s struggling offense and power play. Entering the final week of November, the Sabres are averaging 2.81 goals per game, the eighth-lowest mark in the league. The power play is clicking at 16.4%, 23rd in the NHL. The dynamic winger has collected about 32% of his career points on the man advantage, as he can be an excellent set-up man or one-time option on the dot. 

The problem is that the Sabres have not been as good as expected to start the 2023-24 season. Buffalo was viewed as a team that would take the final step out of the rebuild this year, given how close the team was to the postseason last year. If Kane has his eyes set on joining a Stanley Cup contender, the Sabres are no longer atop that list, sitting under .500 and sixth in the Atlantic. 

Florida Panthers

The Panthers are the defending Eastern Conference champions, and have continued the momentum from their Cinderella Cup run into the 2023-24 season, sitting tied for third in the conference and second in the Atlantic. In terms of contenders, they are right there in the East, and Kane could have the chance to play with a dynamic center like Aleksander Barkov. 

Florida has an older group, so there would not be as much messing up the mojo like if Kane joined the baby Sabres. The Panthers don’t have a ton of cap, but with roughly $1.7 million available, they could make it work. Plus, it’s South Beach. Who wouldn’t want to live in the Miami area and play hockey?

The issue could boil down to travel. There have been reports that Kane isn’t as keen on signing in the Western Conference due to the lengthy hours spent going from arena to arena. Well, when it comes to the East, no one has it worse than the Panthers and Lightning, given their geographical location in Florida. 

“To be perfectly honest, there was one person who said to me, look, if you’re worried about the travel in the Western Conference, why would you want to go to Florida when Florida and Tampa Bay have the worst travel in the Eastern Conference?” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported. “They’re remote outposts compared to a lot of the other places.”

Detroit Red Wings

When Kane was traded from the Blackhawks to the Rangers in the spring, it wasn’t just to join a playoff contender. It was a reunion between Kane and his former Chicago teammate Artemi Panarin. The two created magic during Panarin’s first two years in the NHL, leading to a Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy for Kane in 2015-16. 

For the Red Wings, they don’t have Panarin, but this summer, they did acquire one of Kane’s other wing partners from the Blackhawks — Alex DeBrincat. Kane was DeBrincat’s main set-up man when the current Red Wings star was potting 40 goals a season. Kane admitted in the past that when DeBrincat was traded from Chicago to Ottawa it was “disappointing” and “crushing,” and this would give him another shot at playing with the talented sniper. 

“I’m really curious about the Detroit one,” Friedman said. “They have the cap room, they have the space on the roster, they’re doing very nicely so far this season. As we look on Sunday night, they’re sitting there very much in contention in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference. 

“So, I definitely think there’s a lot of people wondering about Detroit and whether or not he ends up there. 

The Red Wings have the fifth-most cap space in the league, so money isn’t an issue. It was assumed one of Buffalo, Ottawa or Detroit would take the last step out of the rebuild and become contenders, and through the early going, it looks like the Wings are that team. Adding Kane could be just the move the Winged Wheel needs to solidify their spot as a playoff contender. 

Dallas Stars

One of the dark horse teams that could potentially land Kane is Dallas. The Stars look like one of the best teams in the Western Conference, and there have been reports that Kane would love to end up with the organization. 

The thing is, the Stars already have tons of depth at forward. You could argue that, on paper, Dallas may have the deepest top-nine forward group in the league. Adding Kane would mean someone like Mason Marchment or Evgenii Dadonov gets dropped to the fourth line, and neither are fourth-line players.

Which is why it makes sense that the rumblings around the Stars and Kane are that the player is much more interested in the team than the other way around. The Stars are up against the cap, and would have to move money around to make it work financially.

“I think Kane would love to play there, I’m just not sure Dallas thinks it’s the best idea for them,” Friedman said. “I think they feel if they’re going to add, it’s going to be on defense.”

While adding Kane, who has a desire to play in Dallas, is appealing, don’t fix what ain’t broke, right?

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