The Patrick Kane sweepstakes are going to be fascinating to watch this season, and one person who should be paying close attention is Pittsburgh Penguins general manager (GM) Ron Hextall. The Chicago Blackhawks are in full rebuild mode and their five-year plan is not appealing to Kane, who is a pending free agent and likely to be traded this season.
While Kane holds a full no-movement clause and an expensive $10.5 million salary for the 2022-23 season, I’d expect to see the Blackhawks retain the full 50% of the cost to ensure they receive a premium package in return.
The fact that Kane holds all the cards about his destination is something that also plays into this as Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson will only be able to acquire so much based on where Kane wants to end up. On the wing of Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin with a shot at another Stanley Cup? That sounds intriguing enough for me, so let’s dive into some of the trade assets Hextall could send back to the windy city.
First-Round Draft Picks
The Blackhawks are in rebuild mode, while the Penguins are in win-now mode until their veteran core retires, so Hextall should consider departing with at least one first-rounder. Recently, it was reported he wanted no part in moving a first-round pick along with Jason Zucker to the Philadelphia Flyers in a salary dump transaction; however, this time around it’s another level with having the chance to land Kane.
The Penguins currently hold their first-round selections moving forward throughout the years and acquiring a world-class player of Kane’s skillset will likely cost at least one. This is something Hextall needs to consider and especially if they are able to get Kane signed to a contract extension. The likes of Crosby, Malkin, and the rest of the core want to win another Cup, and while management needs to keep the future of the franchise in mind, moving the pick should be the play here.
Penguins prospect Pierre-Olivier Joseph is the perfect trade candidate for the Blackhawks as he’s still only 23 years old and has the potential to be an NHL regular.
After being selected in the first round by the Arizona Coyotes back in 2017 and then being shipped in the Phil Kessel trade to Pittsburgh in 2019, Joseph hasn’t been able to crack the Pens lineup on a regular basis. In the last two seasons, Joseph has appeared in only 20 NHL games, and with the recent acquisitions of defenseman Ty Smith and having Marcus Pettersson locked up long-term, Joseph consistently looks like the odd man out on the depth chart.
One thing worth considering as well as the fact that Hextall didn’t make the trade with the Coyotes and isn’t necessary ‘tied’ to the player. When this is the case, it usually makes it easier for any GM to pull the trigger on a deal, especially if someone like Kane is the return.
The Blackhawks don’t have much when it comes to goaltending depth as they’re going with veteran Petr Mrazek as their starting netminder this season. After Mrazek, 35-year-old Alex Stalock is slated for backup duties as the team is likely headed for another lottery selection. Including Penguins prospect Filip Lindberg and his skillset and ceiling is something that should get Davidson’s attention in Chicago.
Lindberg was originally drafted in the seventh round by the Minnesota Wild back in 2019 but never came to terms on an entry-level contract. The Penguins swooped in and now have a solid goalie prospect waiting in the wings.
After his college career was in the books, Lindberg suited up for the Penguins’ American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and showcased many of his skills. He appeared in seven games down the stretch, posting a 2.76 goals against average and a .915 save percentage. While the Pittsburgh brass may be in love with his game, you have to trade players you like in order to acquire an impact player like Kane. A lot of their willingness to move Lindberg will come down to what type of season Tristan Jarry has and if a contract extension can be worked out.
Nevertheless, keep an eye on the trade chatter coming out of Chicago this season. The Penguins should have a keen interest in acquiring Kane, and their conversations with the Blackhawks should start with Lindberg, Joseph, and at least one first-round pick.