Say it with me folks: Patrick Kane is a Detroit Red Wing.
After months of speculation about where Kane would sign, with some connecting him to the Florida Panthers, Dallas Stars and the Buffalo Sabres among others, the highly-decorated winger signed a one-year, $2.75 million deal with the Red Wings.
The move reunites Kane with Alex DeBrincat, his linemate with the Chicago Blackhawks from 2017-2022. Kane enjoyed a career-best season playing with DeBrincat during the 2018-19 season, and DeBrincat followed that up with a career-best season in 2021-22, his final year playing with Kane and the Blackhawks.
Through 16 seasons, Kane is a three-time Stanley Cup champion with the third-most points (1,237) ever among Americans to play in the NHL. He was the top pick of the 2007 NHL Draft, the regular season MVP in 2016 as well as the NHL’s top point-getter that same season. He won the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie in 2008, and he won the Conn Smythe as the playoff MVP during the Blackhawks’ run to a championship in 2013. He is considered one of the best players of all time, and his number will be retired by the Blackhawks when he decides to call it a career.
That’s just a snapshot of what Kane brings to the Red Wings. To get the full picture, we need to look a little bit closer….
Kane Adds Star Power to Red Wings’ Top 6
The DeBrincat connection looms large as the Red Wings and head coach Derek Lalonde begin the task of figuring out where Kane will fit into Detroit’s lineup. According to Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff, the Red Wings’ recent lineup change to breakup to top line of DeBrincat, Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond was, in part, a maneuver to appeal to Kane.
Given the success that DeBrincat and Kane enjoyed together, it seems like a given that the two will be reunited once Kane officially joins the lineup. Since the lineup shakeup, DeBrincat has played on the Red Wings’ second line with center J.T. Compher and winger Michael Rasmussen. Assuming nothing happens to change the personnel on the team’s first line, it seems like sliding Kane into Rasmussen’s spot would be a pretty easy adjustment to make.
The Red Wings will likely want to ease Kane into the lineup for a number of reasons, one of which is that the team had been doing pretty well before they signed Kane. They currently sit third in the Atlantic Division and hold the third-best goal-differential in the Eastern Conference (plus-14). Adding Kane is a luxury that other teams couldn’t afford due to the salary cap, so the Red Wings should be able to take their time with Kane and make sure that he’s completely ready to go before he wears the winged wheel for the first time.
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When Kane does enter the lineup, his presence alone will change how the hockey community talks about this team. Considering how long the Red Wings’ rebuild has been going on, that change of tone will be music to the ears of fans all across “Hockeytown”.
Does the Kane Signing Mean the Red Wings’ Rebuild Is Over?
Entering this season, Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman still used the word “building” to describe the status of his team. He mentioned that the team was still trying to identify its core, even after spending millions of dollars in the offseason to bring in a bunch of veteran free agents. Fast forward to today, and the Red Wings look like a team that could be a genuine threat for a wild card spot as the playoff race begins to heat up in the new year.
Even before they signed Kane, there was an argument to be made that the Red Wings have moved into the next phase of their competitive cycle. With a prospect pool that is practically overflowing and a roster that is as deep as it has ever been since Detroit’s playoff streak ended in 2017, the Red Wings seem set up for success both in the short and long-term. Now that they have signed Kane, it is fair to wonder if we’ve been underselling where this team is at up until this point.
Though there were likely other teams that interested Kane, few, if any, were able to match the price tag the Red Wings were able to offer him. But for a forward whose career earnings are over $115 million on contracts alone, money was probably secondary to his fit with the team and the team’s plan to compete for a Stanley Cup. After all, at 35 years old, who knows how many years Kane has left to add a fourth championship ring to his collection.
If nothing else, this signing is a glowing endorsement of the Red Wings, both where they are at now and where Yzerman has them headed. While this move doesn’t mean the Red Wings are suddenly Cup contenders, it does mean we probably need to think of them less as “playoff hopefuls” and more as “playoff contenders.”
Low Risk, High Reward
When it comes to one-year deals, most risk attributed with the player signed is mitigated by the lack of term on the contract. While Kane has as good a résumé as you can find in the NHL, there are still some risks that prevent this signing from being a slam dunk in terms of its success.
First and foremost, Kane and his teammates were at the center of one of the biggest scandals in NHL history when it was revealed a player by the name of Kyle Beach was sexually assaulted by one of the Blackhawks’ video coaches during the team’s championship run in 2010. According to people that were part of that team, most of the team’s players knew about what was going on, but no one stood up for their teammate when it mattered the most.
That scandal has since been settled between Beach and the Blackhawks, but many players from those Blackhawk dynasty years, including Kane, now have a tainted legacy despite all that they have accomplished. Despite this, Yzerman and his management staff clearly harbor little-to-no concerns about Kane’s character and how it might impact the Red Wings’ locker room.
The other concern surrounding Kane is his ability to bounce back from the hip resurfacing surgery that kept him off of an NHL roster to this point in the season. To this point, there is no precedent of a player coming back from that type of surgery and returning to the level of success they had prior to the injury. The most recent example was Nicklas Bäckström of the Washington Capitals, who returned halfway through the 2022-23 season, and featured in eight games this season before he was forced to step away indefinitely. In 47 games, he had 22 points, a far cry from the lofty totals he was used to putting up as the main setup guy for Alex Ovechkin.
Perhaps Kane can be the exception. Though he has never been the most mobile forward on the ice throughout his career, that lack of mobility has never prevented him from creating space in the offensive zone, and that’s what lead him to become one of the best playmakers of his generation. The Red Wings will obviously want to protect him as much as they can, but if they can limit his play in the defensive end and his need to backcheck in the neutral zone, they should be able to set themselves and Kane up for success. In other words, don’t expect him to average over 22 minutes of ice time like he did when he and DeBrincat were lighting it up with the Blackhawks.
It’s Showtime in Detroit
Kane, who earned the nickname “Showtime” during his time in Chicago, is the latest example of the Red Wings becoming a preferred destination for free agents. It wasn’t that long ago that the team’s biggest free agent signings were Valtteri Filppula and Patrik Nemeth while other teams were able to sign legitimate needle-movers. Now not only are the Red Wings attracting free agents, but players with name brand value are starting to look their way again too.
At the start of this season, the idea of making the playoffs was thrown around like an expensive item on a Christmas wish list: you definitely mention it because you do want it, but you don’t hold your breath and just hope to be pleasantly surprised when Santa comes around. Signing Kane isn’t exactly a one-way trip to the playoffs, but it should change the perception of where this team is at and make the idea of making the playoffs less of a wish and more of an expectation.
Regardless of how this signing actually plays out, one thing has been made perfectly clear at this point of the season: the Red Wings are back.