The Patrick Kane signing is a very risky bet for the Detroit Red Wings

      Kane is 35, his play-driving ability has eroded, and he's coming off a surgery that almost always ends NHL careers. Keep your expectations low as No. 88 heads to Detroit.

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      The Detroit Red Wings made a major splash on Tuesday when they officially agreed to terms on a one-year, $2.75 million contract with unrestricted free agent forward Patrick Kane.

      On the surface, it’s a contract that makes all kinds of sense for a Red Wings team looking to take the next step this year toward contending. Kane is (relatively) cheap, he has a long history with Alex DeBrincat, and Kane’s championship pedigree surpasses that of almost every other player in the league.

      But at what point does a player’s reputation begin to overshadow what he can still do on the ice? Much of the discussion about Kane has revolved around qualities tied more to the mythology of who he has been as a player rather than who he is now — his three Stanley Cup rings, his history of making clutch plays, and the guarantee of him eventually being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

      It is true that Kane scored 21 goals and 57 points in 73 games last year, and that he managed 92 points the season before that. It is also true that in eight of the last eight seasons, Kane’s teams have been outchanced — often by an enormous margin — and generally outplayed at both ends with him on the ice at 5-on-5.

      Last year, the prevailing sentiment heading into the trade deadline was that Kane would pick up his play on a New York Rangers team on which he would be more motivated to push for a Stanley Cup. But after the Rangers paid multiple draft picks to acquire Kane at the deadline, they proceeded to be out-chanced 203 to 142 with him on the ice at 5-on-5 over 26 games in the regular season and the playoffs.

      And while, from a distance, Kane’s production over the last few seasons doesn’t look that different from what he managed in his prime years with the Chicago Blackhawks, it’s become concerning just how heavily he relies on receiving plum power-play deployment to juice his otherwise thoroughly pedestrian numbers.

      Among the 417 forwards who played at least 1,000 minutes at 5-on-5 between the 2020–21 and 2022–23 seasons, Kane ranks 78th in points and 160th in goals on a per-60-minute basis. Isolating for just the 2022–23 season (and dropping the minimum TOI threshold to 500 minutes), Kane ranked 161st out of 382 players in points per hour of 5-on-5 ice time.

      The aging curve is almost certainly affecting Kane’s scoring output in a negative way. The same can also be said about his bad hip, on which he had a rare resurfacing procedure over the summer. But while Kane was already beginning to show signs of regression before his hip injury, it’s unclear just how he’ll be able to return to his previous levels after returning from his rehabilitation process.

      Hip resurfacing is almost always effectively a death sentence for NHL careers. Both Carl Hagelin and Ryan Kesler called it quits shortly after undergoing the procedure, which involves dislocating the upper end of the thighbone, trimming and capping it, removing cartilage, and then finally putting it back in place.

      Ed Jovanovski and Nicklas Backstrom both tried NHL comebacks after having their hips resurfaced. Jovanovski lasted 37 games with the Florida Panthers in the 2013–14 season before calling it a career; just this season, Backstrom appeared in just eight games with the Washington Capitals until he decided he couldn’t continue playing.

      The odds aren’t great. Now, while all four of those players had terrific careers, Kane undeniably peaked higher than all of them and only just turned 35 earlier this month. But Kane didn’t sign with the Red Wings (over numerous other interested teams) to play a depth role for the swan song of his career. You can bet the Wings want him right up there next to DeBrincat — and, as Daily Faceoff‘s own Frank Seravalli pointed out on Tuesday, they recently split up their previous top line of DeBrincat, Dylan Larkin, and Lucas Raymond.

      But that only just highlights what might be the single biggest drawback of signing Kane at this stage in his career: he absolutely needs to be heavily sheltered to have any sort of positive impact. Kane’s defensive results have gradually gotten worse and worse over the last eight seasons to the point that, last season, he was one of the most deleterious defensive players in the entire league.

      According to Natural Stat Trick, of the 15 players who were on the ice for the most expected goals against on a per-60-minute basis in 2022–23, 13 of them spent at least part of the season with either the Anaheim Ducks or the Montreal Canadiens. The two who didn’t were Tommy Novak … and Patrick Kane, whose high-danger chance suppression rates were the second-worst on the Blackhawks before the trade — and the worst on the Rangers afterward.

      If the Red Wings are smart, they’ll ease Kane into things and deploy him with a short leash in his first few games with the team. If they enter this arrangement expecting Kane to be a superstar-caliber player who scores at a 100-point pace over the rest of the season, they might be in for a shock. He may not even be a second-line forward at this point. It’s difficult to project how Kane will produce as a Red Wing since nobody has ever returned from the surgery he had to resume their NHL career for any meaningful length of time. If Kane can even make it through the rest of the season, he’ll be the first to do so.

      The line of DeBrincat, Larkin, and Raymond has generally pushed play in the right direction this season. For the past several years, Kane has not. There’s a good reason why Kane’s teams haven’t advanced past the Eastern Conference quarterfinal since the Blackhawks last won the Stanley Cup in 2015:

      ‘Showtime’ just isn’t the star he once was.



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