It's been pretty much radio silence from NHL superstar Patrick Kane this offseason.
The longtime Chicago Blackhawks forward who ended last season with the New York Rangers underwent hip resurfacing surgery in June and is slated to return to action January, 2024 but he could return sooner given how well his recovery has gone.
“It’s just exciting to see progression and just feeling better on the ice,” Kane said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Kind of getting back to my old self, so it’s pretty exciting.”
“I think we’re at the point now where, I mean, could I come back early? Yeah, probably,” Kane said. “But does it make sense? You know, it might be better to take the full time and just make sure I’m at 105-110% instead of just 90-95. But it’s a lot better than I was last year.”
As for where he'll be playing and what jersey he'll be wearing next season though, well that remains to be seen. Kane is still an unrestricted free agent and swears that he doesn't have any back room, handshake deal with any teams. He maintains that he's remaining patient and will take the offer that makes the most sense once he's back to full health.
“If someone wanted to come and give an offer that I was excited about, and a situation that I’m excited about, it’s not like I wouldn’t be listening just because of the situation I’m in,” he did say however.
TSN insider Dave Poulin reported on TSN 1050 this past weekend that if indeed Kane's hip condition heals as expected then the Leafs will be "at the forefront of potential suitors."
Honestly though... I don't see it.
First off, have you seen the Leafs' cap situation? How on Earth does Poulin expect the Leafs to get Kane under contract? It would take a Herculean effort from Leafs GM Brad Treliving to get a deal done, but the NHL's 35+ age rules on contracts actually helps the Leafs. The rule states that teams can sign a player aged 35 or older to a minimum salary contract ($775,000) and then increase his pay through performance bonuses. The loophole is that the team is only on the hook this season for the players' salary and not his performance bonuses, which get kick to next season.
So if the Leafs were so inclined, they could add Kane for league minimum and then bump up his pay if he produces. Those bonuses would then be added to next year's salary. With Auston Matthews' new deal kicking in next season though that might make things even more difficult. It really depends on what other moves Treliving has in mind.
Kane was productive for both the Blackhawks and Rangers last season, despite playing with a painful hip injury. He ended his season with 12 points in 19 regular season and six points in seven playoff games for the Rangers. Not bad for a guy skating with a bum hip...
It's worth noting though that only one NHL player has ever returned from this sort of hip surgery to any sort of success in the NHL. Washington Capitals star Nicklas Backstrom took a seven months off to recover from the surgery and managed 21 points in 39 games once he returned to action. Carl Hagelin underwent the same surgery and was not able to return to action, while longtime NHL defenseman Ed Jovanovski played just 37 games after the surgery before retiring for good. Here's hoping that Kane's experience is more like Backstrom's than Hagelin's or Jovanovski's.
Thoughts, Leafs fans?