CHICAGO – After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks' situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline.
Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance.
The reverberations of Chicago's decision to trade Patrick Kane to the New York Rangers were felt almost immediately, with the flat Blackhawks losing 4-1 at Arizona on Tuesday night. And there will be more shockwaves Thursday night, when they host Dallas in the franchise's first home game since the deal.
“We knew it was going to happen, but still when you see it's actually true, it's pretty crazy,” Blackhawks forward Philipp Kurashev said. “I never thought that he would play for a different team, but that's how it went.”
Kane, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft, had spent his entire career with Chicago, winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015. Even as Chicago struggled in recent years and the 34-year-old winger started managing a hip issue, he still provided bursts of flashy play that delighted faithful crowds at the United Center.
But the Blackhawks (21-34-5) are tanking, hoping for a fortunate bounce with a ping-pong ball and a chance to take Connor Bedard with the No. 1 pick in the draft. And Kane is in the final year of his contract.
General manager Kyle Davidson said all along it was up to Kane what he wanted to do, and he decided last week he would waive his no-movement clause for a trade to New York.
Davidson had no leverage in his conversations with New York GM Chris Drury, and the best part of Tuesday's three-team deal for Chicago was a conditional 2023 second-round draft pick and a fourth-rounder in 2025. The conditional pick turns into a first-rounder if the Rangers reach this year’s East final.
“If you look at it from the pure hockey standpoint and an asset return standpoint, it probably doesn’t compute,” Davidson said. “But given the circumstances and the situation, I think we achieved what we wanted to, and that was to put Patrick on a team that he wanted to go to. That’s the main goal here, was hopefully get some assets for the future, which we feel we did, but mainly was repaying a player that’s done so much for the franchise.”
The Blackhawks also traded defenseman Jack Johnson to Colorado on Sunday and dealt forward Sam Lafferty and defenseman Jake McCabe to Toronto on Monday. Max Domi, who leads the team with 18 goals and 31 assists, and fellow forward Andreas Athanasiou also could be on the move ahead of Friday's deadline.
The Kane trade means Jonathan Toews is the team's last link to its most recent three Stanley Cup titles, and it's unclear when the captain might play again. Toews, who also is in the final year of his contract, announced last month that he is dealing with symptoms of long COVID-19 and chronic immune response syndrome.
With all the moves, the Blackhawks have two first-round picks in each of the next three drafts. They have four second-rounders this year, after they selected three players in the first round of the 2022 draft.
But it could be years before any of those prospects make it to the NHL, and Chicago has 22 games left season — all without Kane.
“We'll never be one player come in and do what Patrick Kane can do, whether it be on the ice skill-wise or just leadership-wise and his presence in the room,” first-year coach Luke Richardson said. “I think we got to do it by the committee ... and I think this team has that ability do that.”
Follow Jay Cohen at https://twitter.com/jcohenap