Jump to content

Debating the pursuit of Patrick Kane and the Sabres' role in it


Recommended Posts

The Patrick Kane Sweepstakes is heating up, and it seems like the South Buffalo native is heading for a decision as soon as this week about his next stop in the NHL.

The Sabres are one of several teams that have been in regular contact with Kane. The real question is how interested he is in them at this point of his career, when chasing another Stanley Cup could have far more significance to him than money.

Ahead of the Sabres' game Sunday in the United Center against Kane's old team, the Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo News sports reporters Lance Lysowski and Mike Harrington debate the Kane conundrum.

Why should the Sabres sign Kane?

Lysowski: This team has a glaring hole at right wing because of the injury to Jack Quinn, the ineffectiveness of Victor Olofsson and lack of NHL-ready prospects in Rochester. The Sabres may have Quinn back in a few weeks, but they can’t rely on the 21-year-old winger to make an immediate impact after missing training camp and 35 games to start the season.

Zach Benson can’t produce like Kane. Neither can Lukas Rousek or Brandon Biro. And the Sabres made it clear through their approach after Tage Thompson’s injury that they don’t view Jiri Kulich or Isak Rosen as the solution right now. This team needs more capable goal-scorers and playmakers. Kane is two years removed from producing 26 goals and 92 points for a brutal Blackhawks roster. He has 20 or more goals 14 times in his NHL career.

The only scenario that would steer me away from Kane is if he, through his agent Pat Brisson, demands a multiyear contract. The Sabres only need a rental, at least for now. Kulich, Rosen, Benson and Matt Savoie are among the wingers expected to push for a roster spot next season. There’s no need to block them.

Harrington: You can throw out hometown boy and star power when you're talking about one of the greatest American players in history. But a relatively healthy Kane – and that's a big question – can deliver an instant boost to the offense and the power play, and provide a huge injection of playoff experience that the locker room mostly lacks.

The Sabres have identified their core, but could use a little help from the outside while their young players still develop. This would be a massive addition to have Kane choose them over teams that would seemingly be much closer to a Cup.

Do you have any concern about Kane’s hip-resurfacing surgery?

Lysowski: The Sabres need to meticulously examine the medicals, interview Kane’s strength and medical team, and receive as many in-person viewings as possible of Kane skating. They need some assurance that he is back to the player he was before last season. He was a shell of himself when he was with the Rangers.

The surgery has a concerning history in the NHL. Defenseman Ed Jovanovski played only 36 games after returning from his 2013 procedure that required 10 months of rehabilitation. Forward Ryan Kesler never played again after his in 2019. Nicklas Backstrom stepped away from the Capitals recently because he hadn’t been the same player since returning from his in June 2022.

Kane is worth the risk if it’s a one-year contract at the right price. It would be irresponsible for the Sabres to overextend and possibly block a prospect next season to roll the dice.

Harrington: Major concern. Backstrom played 39 games in Washington last season and just eight this year before going on a leave of absence after having the same hip resurfacing procedure that Kane underwent. Backstrom seems headed toward retirement, but NHL sources say Kane's condition was not as dire as Backstrom's or some other players who could not come back at full strength. Still, the Sabres have to be 100% sure of what they're getting. What's the point of signing Kane if he continues to look as hobbled as he did, at times, last year with the Rangers?

How would Kane help?

Lysowski: A dynamic, playmaking winger with three Stanley Cup rings and an ability to drive his own line is typically impossible to acquire at this stage of the season. Kane would improve the Sabres’ scoring depth at 5-on-5, and he can help a power play that is going to be without Thompson for several weeks. From his spot on the right flank, Kane can extend possession, snap a tape-to-tape seam pass to send a penalty kill into a scramble and, most importantly, take pressure off Rasmus Dahlin.

Let’s remember, though, that the Sabres’ primary issues on the power play are faceoffs and zone entries, neither of which can be cured by simply signing Kane.

Harrington: Power play, power play, power play. Imagine the King of the Dangle coming off the half-wall with the man advantage and ponder the fear and the attention that causes with opposing defenders. A lot more ice for other guys. Kane can help with entries and in-the-zone possession, two areas that have been very weak on the PP. Of course, he can't do much on faceoffs, which is entirely another aspect of the troubles.

Do you have any questions about Kane’s defense?

Lysowski: The supporting cast can help the Sabres overcome his deficiencies. Play Kane with a stronger defensive center such as Casey Mittelstadt. This team needs to get back to playing the way it did last season when it ranked third in the NHL in goals. Kane had remarkable success in Chicago while playing in the same system that Don Granato implemented in Buffalo once he became the Sabres’ head coach.

Harrington: Sure, he's 35. He's coming off hip surgery. How is he going to play a 200-foot game? That said, I'm not signing Patrick Kane for his defense. There's enough other guys out there for that. Put the puck in the net and set up other guys to do likewise. That's what this is all about.

Should there be any concern about how Kane would fit in the dressing room?

Lysowski: Granato understands how Kane’s personality would mesh. They were together in Chicago. General Manager Kevyn Adams is very careful when acquiring a player because he doesn’t want to spoil the behind-the-scenes culture built in Buffalo, but the Sabres are at a point where they’re ready for a bigger personality. Kane just wants to win. He’d find a roomful of players with the same objective if he chose Buffalo.

Harrington: None. These guys are desperate to win. Bring them a three-time Cup champion, an Olympian, a stone-cold lock for the Hockey Hall of Fame, and they're signing up in a heartbeat. The bigger question is how Kane would fit among the fan base. This is a guy who has regularly been booed during his visits for years. Maybe not at the Jack Eichel level, but strong and steady. It's pure animosity for all that went on in Kane's life in Buffalo pre-2016. Does he really want to deal with all that kind of chirping off the ice away from the rink and the potential for indifference in it?

What's the alternative if Kane signs elsewhere?

Lysowski: The Sabres need to be aggressive. They can't wait until January or February for Quinn to return to form, and I don't see Benson as a realistic solution right now. Adams needs to make a trade. This team has draft picks, prospects and, according to CapFriendly.com, $7.264 million in salary-cap space.

Finding a motivated trade partner in November is challenging. Prices are higher. It's not impossible, though. Call a team like San Jose about Anthony Duclair, who had 11 points in 20 playoff games after missing most of the regular season in 2022-23. He produced 31 goals in 74 games and also played in Chicago while Granato was a Blackhawks assistant.

Harrington: Kane is a luxury item. The Sabres will obviously take him if he wants to come, but he's hardly the No. 1 priority. What they really need is another forward with some jam, and preferably one who can win some faceoffs. It seems far less likely Kane would come to Buffalo in the wake of Tage Thompson's injury, which puts a huge crimp in the Sabres' playoff hopes. If he goes somewhere else, the Sabres can keep watching him and perhaps circle back this summer in free agency, when they'll likely be able to exceed any contenders in term and dollars.

Where do you think Kane will choose to sign?

Lysowski: The Dallas Stars. I'm sticking with my preseason prediction, despite the Stars' salary-cap troubles. They're a Cup contender with a need at right wing and, unlike other suitors, benefit from playing in a tax-free state.

Harrington: My preseason choice was Colorado, and I still think the Avs need Kane to help boost their offense and withstand the continued long-term absence of captain Gabriel Landeskog.

Other top choices would be Dallas, Florida or Boston, although there would be some cap gymnastics required in all these places. And enough about Toronto. No way the Leafs can fit Kane in, and they don't need him. They need to figure out their bottom six and their defense.

“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...