Back in September, rumors began swirling that winger Patrick Kane would be interested in joining the Detroit Red Wings to reunite with Alex DeBrincat. Naturally, that was before the season started, and much has changed since then.
Since the season started, the Red Wings have sprung out of the gate as an early bandwagon. They have won five of their first six games, and have outscored their opponents 30-15 in the process. DeBrincat leads the NHL in goals (9), and linemate Dylan Larkin is second in the league in points (15). It’s easy to get carried away with a start like this, but the sheer excitement this team has inspired early on is undeniable.
So when Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff recently mentioned that the Red Wings are one of three teams on Kane’s radar as he nears a return to action, the news hit a little differently than it did a month ago. The allure of adding another weapon to what has already been an impressive offense is as strong as it has ever been, and that’s why we should stop to consider what might be going through the minds of the decision-makers in the Red Wings’ front office.
To sign, or not to sign, that is the question. No matter how you look at it, there’s a good case to be made for either side of the argument.
Pro: Kane Elevates the Offense & DeBrincat Further
With Larkin and DeBrincat leading the charge, the Red Wings’ offense has been on another level this season. The team has 35 goals through their first eight games, and their power play currently ranks second in the league with a success rate of 38.7%. To top it all off, they have received goals from 14 different players, with eight of those players having scored multiple goals through the first eight games. It seems like all hands are on deck in terms of producing goals, and Eminem’s “Without Me” has played through the speakers at Little Caesar’s Arena a lot because of it.
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With 451 goals and 1,237 points to his credit, Kane built his reputation on his ability to provide offense. He scored the Stanley Cup-clinching goal for the Chicago Blackhawks back in 2010, and he put up over 100 points in one season twice in his career, something a Red Wings player has not done since Sergei Fedorov recorded 107 points during the 1995-96 campaign. Kane has almost 400 power play points through his career, and has been one of the league’s top playmakers since he broke into the league back in 2007.
As for Kane’s 100-point seasons, his second time hitting that benchmark came during the 2018-19 season while playing alongside a 21-year-old winger named Alex DeBrincat. The two found instant chemistry together as offensive wingers; Kane’s 66 assists and 110 points are both career-high numbers, and that was DeBrincat’s first season hitting the 40-goal mark. The two of them looked good together in red and black, and surely they would look good together in red and white.
Con: Kane Could Disrupt Chemistry
Despite the fact that Kane and DeBrincat have had success together in the past, it’s not like the latter is stagnating in Detroit without the former. In fact, DeBrincat’s early scoring pace has him on track for a career-best season in almost every offensive category. It is obviously very early, but the chemistry he has shown with Larkin seems legit, and that should position them to play together for the foreseeable future.
Filling out that line with Larkin and DeBrincat has been Lucas Raymond, the 21-year-old now playing in his third NHL season. While the young Swede has not put up the same offensive totals as his linemates, he still sits at a solid six points through eight games. While Larkin and DeBrincat have carried the load in terms of creating and finishing opportunities, Raymond has mostly been tasked with getting them the puck and finding pockets of opportunity to get his own scoring chances. So far, the results have mostly been positive.
If the Red Wings do sign Kane, they are almost certainly doing so with the intention of playing him with DeBrincat and, presumably, Larkin. That would create an All-American line with sky-high offensive potential, but that would cause a ripple effect throughout the rest of the lineup.
The Red Wings’ forward lines have mostly looked like this through the first 1/10 of the season:
This lineup doesn’t include Robby Fabbri, who is out until sometime around Thanksgiving in the U.S. with a lower-body injury, as well as Jonatan Berggren, a young winger that began the season in the American Hockey League (AHL) after graduating to the NHL last season.
Kane could be a nice addition to the top line, but the coaching staff would then have to change almost, if not every forward line. What would that look like?
Pro: Kane Would Add Legitimacy to the Red Wings
Thanks to their hot start, Red Wings fever is spreading across the hockey universe:
After a long offseason that saw a number of people question the legitimacy of the “Yzerplan”, the Red Wings have asserted themselves as a team to keep an eye on this season. But when considering the big picture of the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference as a whole, it’s not hard to become a bit skeptical of Detroit’s playoff chances – after all, general manager (GM) Steve Yzerman himself has said that he’s still trying to assemble the core of this team.
Kane, who owns three championship rings from his time with the Blackhawks, is expected to sign with a legitimate contender when he finally puts pen to paper. The reason teams like the New York Rangers and the Dallas Stars are linked to him is because they both possess veteran-filled rosters with championship aspirations. The team that he signs with will be talked about on TV and social media differently than they were before.
It’s been a while since players like Kane picked the Red Wings. It would be a huge statement if he did.
Con: What about the Kids?
Speaking of Yzerman’s efforts to build the Red Wings’ core, those efforts are most often classified as a process of drafting and developing prospects. Detroit’s prospect pool is one of the deepest in the league, and there are two or three players in the AHL playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins that could be playing for the Red Wings right now. That’s a testament to the Red Wings’ scouting department, as well as to the depth of their NHL roster.
The Griffins’ 2023-24 roster features a number of highly-drafted players from Yzerman’s tenure as GM. and even one (Berggren) from before. This pool of talent represents the next decade of Red Wings hockey, but Yzerman’s litany of free agent acquisitions over the last two offseasons have formed a sort of barrier over the NHL roster. Adding Kane to the mix would almost certainly prevent any young forwards from breaking through this season, barring a massive streak of injuries.
Kane, who turns 35 in November, wouldn’t be a long-term barrier for players like Berggren, Marco Kasper, and Elmer Söderblom. But if the Red Wings sign Kane, that almost certainly signals playoffs or bust for Detroit. If that ends up being the case, would management consider moving some of the team’s future pieces at the trade deadline?
Even though Kane’s arrival would likely impact Raymond’s spot on the top line, that doesn’t mean Raymond wouldn’t benefit from learning from the 2016 Hart Trophy winner.
Like Kane, Raymond is a smaller winger with non-superb skating skills but sky-high offensive IQ. They are both playmakers by nature, but both are also capable of scoring lots of goals, and celebrating loudly when they do. Though their play-styles aren’t exactly the same, they both try to do a lot of the same things when they are on the ice.
It’s fun to think about what Raymond might learn from a season or two with Kane there to teach him everything he knows. Though the general idea of Kane joining the Red Wings is about unlocking DeBrincat, realistically it might end up being more about unlocking Raymond.
Con: Hips Don’t Lie
The reason Kane went through the offseason without signing with anyone is because he was, and still is, rehabbing after undergoing a hip resurfacing procedure. It was announced on June 1 that the veteran forward would be out four-to-six months, but would make a full recovery. Per his agent Pat Brisson, Kane still intends “to play for a long time.”
Regardless of Kane’s intentions, he is coming up on 35 years old. Not everybody can be Gordie Howe or Chris Chelios, and Father Time typically comes for hockey players sooner rather than later. Though he had six points through seven playoff games with the Rangers last season, he already doesn’t look like that Patrick Kane. He looks like a player with immense skill that has to be sheltered because he can’t backcheck like a young man anymore.
Kane can still make a difference if utilized correctly, but his hip will continue to be a looming threat, and you have to wonder what his contributions would look like in the event that he can’t find a fit in the lineup. That’s all the more reason why this won’t be a rushed decision, for Kane and the teams interested in signing him.
Should the Red Wings Sign Kane?
My colleague Tony Wolak made his opinion clear: the Red Wings should not sign Kane. There’s a good argument to be made that he’s right, perhaps the biggest of which is that the Red Wings currently seem to be fine without him.
But there are some valid arguments for signing Kane as well. Yes he would add even more offense to the lineup, but he would also provide another skilled and experienced hockey mind for the team’s youngest players to be around. Also, from the scope of the Red Wings being a business, he would add a lot of intrigue to the team. People would buy tickets, jerseys and more, and that’s obviously going to be appealing to management and, obviously, ownership.
So which side of the argument are you on? Do the pros outweigh the cons, or are there too many cons to ignore?