Rangers Could Shift Focus on Blockbuster Trade, Target Blackhawks

Larry Brooks of the New York Post asks in a recent article if the New York Rangers should potentially shift their focus from chasing after J.T. Miller — a player they’ve been rumored to be interested in out of Vancouver — and instead target a superstar that may shake loose out of Chicago. He writes, “The question I am posing is this: If Drury believes this team is close enough to winning a Cup in 2023 to pay big for a one-year rental, would it make more sense to go as far in as possible for Patrick Kane instead of J.T. Miller?”

The Blackhawks Situation Is Messy

Anyone who watched the NHL Draft closely witnessed the Blackhawks go scorched earth and tear down their current roster in a major way. With moves that sent Alex DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators and Kirby Dach to the Montreal Canadiens, the franchise said to its fans and the rest of the players on the team, ‘our rebuild starts now.’

Patrick Kane Chicago Blackhawks
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

That has left questions about what happens with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Both players have said they don’t want to leave Chicago and GM Kyle Davidson has publicly stated the team won’t ask either to waive their no-trade clauses so they can be moved, but a number of insiders are suggesting these two trades and the fact the Blackhawks have no intention of qualifying Dylan Strome is a message to Kane and Toews that it’s time to go.

Related: Rangers Would Be Wrong to Let Andrew Copp Get Away

If Kane turns around and lets the franchise know he’s open to moving on, there will be plenty of interested teams that would be open to acquiring the final season on his $10.5 million per season contract. The Rangers could be among them.

The Rangers Were Interested in Miller

Since the moment talk surfaced that the Vancouver Canucks were thinking about moving on from Miller, the Rangers were linked to trade talks. The question often asked was, if the Rangers can acquire J.T. Miller without giving up Kaapo Kakko or Filip Chytil, should they go for it? The answer was often yes and some were even open to moving one of those two players if Miller was open to a reasonable extension.

J.T. Miller, Vancouver Canucks
J.T. Miller, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Rangers are potentially going to lose Ryan Strome, Frank Vatrano, and Andrew Copp in free agency. After going to the Eastern Conference Final, they’ll need a replacement or two and believe they are a team that is good enough to compete again next season and there’s something intriguing about the idea of Kane and Artemin Panarin reuniting. Like Miller, Kane has one season left on his deal and can then negotiate an extension. The big difference is that Kane is twice the cost of Miller next season. He’s also far more consistent a player. In fact, he’s still one of the most dynamic players in the NHL. And, if the Blackhawks are open to retaining salary, which they might be, the difference could be negligible.

Brooks writes:

Kane, who will turn 34 in November, has a full no-move clause on a contract that has one year to go while carrying a $10.5 million cap hit. Kane thus has control over his next destination. He could steer himself to Broadway. If the Blackhawks would absorb 50 percent of the contract, Kane would carry the same $5.25 million cap hit as Miller, who also has one year to go on his deal. 

How a Trade Might Work?

The Blackhawks clearly want futures. Whether that be in the form of first-round picks or prospects that are a year or two away from really making their dent in the NHL, Chicago isn’t looking to win now. In fact, it appears they are actively trying to get to last place and give themselves the best odds of winning the Draft Lottery next season and selecting first overall. This is an opportunity for the Rangers to move pieces, but not ones that hurt the roster in 2022-23.

The concern for the Rangers and the possible argument against this idea is Kane’s age and the Rangers’ history of trading for players on the wrong side of 30. If they commit to Kane via trade — who should still be a fantastic player next season — they may also need to commit to an extension and what might they have to offer him? Is it multiple seasons? And if so, how many? He’s likely to be less expensive than Miller on his next deal, but how by how much?

Does the question then become which player would the Rangers better be locked into for multiple years after next season?

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