A report out of Chicago suggests that at least five NHL teams contacted the Blackhawks to inquire about Patrick Kane’s availability after it became known that the superstar winger was under investigation for sexual assault.
Shocking? Only that the number of teams testing the waters with Hawks GM Stan Bowman wasn’t considerably higher.
The trade story by Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times cites a league source that revealed the interest in Kane’s services after the Buffalo News reported that a local woman was accusing the 26-year-old of rape.
With a serious charge like that hanging over Kane’s head, it’s hard to imagine why another team would actively seek out his services. At least, it certainly feels wrong.
But from a practical position, it only makes sense that other GMs would pick up the phone. After all, the time to buy is when a player’s value is low. It doesn’t mean that there’s a deal to be made, but to do anything less than inquire about the availability of a game-breaking player who hasn’t yet been charged and who might not be guilty of anything is a dereliction of duty.
There’s no indication that the Hawks have any inclination to trade Kane, who in July 2014 was signed to an eight-year extension worth a reported $84 million. Then again, given the potential for serious charges in concert with his previous indiscretions, it’s not inconceivable that Bowman would be open to offers.
As Lazerus notes, the defending champs are in a tough spot with the opening of training camp a little more than two weeks away. “Will Kane be there, swarmed by local, regional and national press for his first comments since the investigation began? Will he not be there, fueling rampant speculation and uncomfortable questions for his teammates to dance around? Will the Hawks suspend him until the district attorney decides whether to file charges or not, just to be safe? Will the league step in and do it for them, making the Hawks look tentative and weak? And how long might the DA take? Weeks? Months? All year? A black cloud hanging over the Hawks everywhere they go as they defend their third Stanley Cup in six seasons?
“Every one of these scenarios is bad for the Hawks. Trading Kane isn’t.
“Yes, you’d lose one of the best players in the world” Lazerus writes. “Yes, a segment of your fan base would be livid. But you’d get a massive haul in return. You’d free up a massive amount of salary-cap room. And you’d earn a massive amount of respect for putting your foot down and saying enough is enough.”
A “massive” return is debatable. Even in the absence of charges being filed, Kane’s history of bad judgment is like heavy mileage on the odometer. So is the fact that he is entering the first year of that cap-squeezing contract, which also has a full no-movement clause. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be traded. If the Blackhawks are determined to cut ties, it simply gives him a great degree of control over his destination. That said, the Hawks may decide that getting 75 cents on the dollar is preferable to suffering further damage to a brand that is one of the most admired in not just in the NHL, but all of North American sports.
It’s also one of the most closely guarded brands, which is why allowing its value to be chipped away with each passing day seems like something this organization won’t suffer for long.
The Hawks are in a tough spot here. No one should be surprised if other teams are looking to take advantage.