It’s official, the Detroit Red Wings have signed winger Patrick Kane to a one-year deal worth $2.75M for the remainder of the 2023-24 season. The Buffalo, New York native has been a free agent since his deal with the New York Rangers expired on July 1 and the bidding war for his services was well documented over the past few weeks.
Kane is making his return to NHL action after undergoing hip resurfacing surgery on June 1, 2023, a surgery that is still relatively new to the world of professional sports. His hip had been ailing him for quite some time and reportedly was a big reason for his offensive decline last season. This contract represents zero risk towards the salary cap for the Red Wings, with a commitment just until the end of this season and a manageable dollar amount that Detroit will easily be able to add to their cap sheet.
What can Red Wings fans expect from Patrick Kane when he makes his Hockey Town debut, and what are fair expectations for him as he returns from a major surgery?
Will He Be The Same Post-Surgery?
The short answer is probably not. Ed Jovanovski is one of the few players to undergo this same surgery during his playing days but he only managed to play 37 games afterward. Washington Capitals legend Nicklas Backstrom received this same surgery very recently, and even played most of a season following a seven-month recovery period. However, Backstrom has since taken a leave of absence to contemplate his future in hockey and will likely retire.
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While this may sound a bit bleak, it is also such a small sample size and it’s fair to ask what level of impact the surgery could have on Kane since his game was never dependent only on athleticism or mobility, but rather on his playmaking and hockey sense which should both still be intact.
Kane has said that he feels better now than he did last season (where he scored 57 points in 73 games) and that he waited to sign until now because he wanted to make sure he recovered as much as possible before even thinking about pushing himself back into an NHL lineup.
The track record of previous NHL players leads me to believe that the chances are low for Kane to continue to be a high-end NHL player, though it’s also worth mentioning that he is the best player to undergo this surgery to this point. Backstrom has had a phenomenal NHL career with over 1100 games played and north of 1000 points, but Kane’s career is on another level with three Stanley Cup Championships, one league MVP and over 1200 career points (42nd all time).
If anyone can shatter expectations while recovering from a surgery of this magnitude, it is a player of Patrick Kane’s caliber and pedigree.
Firstly, I want to acknowledge that Kane was not only a member, but a leader for the Chicago Blackhawks when they buried the Kyle Beach scandal and has had many off-ice issues of his own over the years. However, I truly doubt that these issues will make much of a difference to the players in the dressing room as his pedigree and the aura of success that surrounds Kane will win out.
Kane has played in 143 career playoff games scoring 138 points along the way and winning three Stanley Cups as the offensive catalyst for the Blackhawks dynasty of the early 2010s. He is arguably the best American-born hockey player in NHL history and has had plenty of success with USA hockey at both the junior and professional levels.
He has been one of the NHL’s most consistent and bankable stars for the last 15 years, and that means something to a locker room. I expect he will be a respected member of the team immediately and whether or not he is particularly vocal, I think Red Wings players will relish the opportunity to learn from one of the most successful players in recent NHL history.
Last year was a pretty significant low by Kane’s standards, though he did still manage to score a respectable amount of points considering how many games he played on that horrendous Blackhawks roster. Let’s take a look at Kane’s points-per-game rate over the past five seasons to see what we can deduce.
2018-19: 1.36 PPG
2019-20: 1.2 PPG
2020-21: 1.18 PPG
2021-22: 1.18 PPG
2022-23: 0.78 PPG
At the age of 35 it’s clear that Kane is no longer in his prime and is rather unlikely to rack up significant point totals. However, if we are to believe Kane that he feels better and more mobile in his hip than he has in years, and he manages to stay healthy this season, there is certainly a chance he can be a reliable offensive option for Detroit this season.
Last season represents the lowest points-per-game rate of Kane’s career (with the 2011-12 season being a close second at 0.8) which means that this season will go a long way in determining the rest of Kane’s time in the NHL. If he manages to bounce back from the surgery and play at a high level, helping to lead the Red Wings to the playoffs, then he could very well stick around for a few more seasons. However, if Kane can’t get back to NHL speed this year then it could be the end of his career.
Kane is one of the best playmakers in NHL history, something that will still make him a great weapon on the powerplay should his mobility be limited. He also has built-in chemistry with offseason acquisition Alex DeBrincat who benefited greatly from Kane’s playmaking in the early stages of his career with the Blackhawks.
While Kane has never been much of a factor defensively throughout his NHL career, I still think he will provide some help on offense due to his vision and hockey sense. I expect he will put up roughly 40 points over Detroit’s final 60ish games in pretty sheltered even strength minutes and a ton of power play time.
If he truly is better off than he was even last season, then there’s always a chance for a player of Kane’s caliber to score even more, perhaps pushing 55+ points, but it’s unreasonable to expect that right off the bat as he returns from such an invasive surgery.
Low Risk Signing With Significant Upside
At the end of the day, this signing is incredibly low-risk for the Red Wings, since it will be off the books next Summer and therefore doesn’t compromise their ability to offer massive extensions to either Lucas Raymond or Moritz Seider.
I don’t expect Kane to be fully himself ever again, having undergone such a serious surgery, but I do think it’s reasonable to think he can be a moderate contributor. He won’t play in the next few games for Detroit as he acclimates to the team’s systems, facilities, his new teammates, and the speed of actual NHL practices, but Kane should be in the lineup in the next week or so.