The Maple Leafs don’t need Patrick Kane and shouldn’t pursue him

Photo credit:Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Hobson
7 months ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in the middle of a stretch in which they play two games in only 12 games, leaving their fans with lots of time to run wild with trade rumours and proposals. Calgary Flames defenceman Nikita Zadorov has been hogging much of the spotlight, considering the sequence of events following last Friday’s game in which he apparently requested a trade, but there’s a new name for fans to chew on while they wait for Friday afternoon’s tilt in Sweden. 
The NHL in 2023-24 has been without Patrick Kane so far. The longtime Chicago Blackhawk sported new colours for the first time in his career last season after a trade deadline move to the New York Rangers, and since undergoing hip surgery in June, he’s yet to step foot on the ice. After TSN’s Darren Dreger reported that Kane would be meeting with teams and would narrow down his choices later in the week, former Hockey Night in Canada producer John Shannon reported that Kane met with the Leafs on Tuesday. 
Since this piece was published, there’s since been a conflicting report on the situation coming from TSN’s Chris Johnston, who said he doesn’t believe the meeting between Kane and the Leafs happened. And if that’s the case, so be it.
The idea to bring somebody like Kane in is an intriguing one. While the 34-year-old certainly isn’t the same player he was five years ago, we’re still talking about a three-time Cup champion who put up 92 points in 78 games in 2021-22. As intriguing as the possibility is, general manager Brad Treliving needs to fight off the urge to sign him, as sexy as the name might be. Why? Well, let’s start with the elephant in the room – the Leafs’ biggest issue hands down this season has been the amount of goals they allow. Kane is, *checks notes* notably not known for his goal prevention. 
This isn’t the case of a team that has a gaping hole in their top six and needs that extra player to push them across the finish line. The Leafs are eighth in the league in goals-for-per-game and while the depth scoring was briefly an issue, they’ve finally found forward combinations that work and have been getting contributions from their supporting cast in recent games. Even if depth players like Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi were truly skating around and doing nothing, they’ve got enough firepower up front to trust that the offence will find itself eventually. 
If the Leafs were to sign Kane, where would he play? The knee jerk is to put him next to countryman Auston Matthews with Mitch Marner on the other side. Bit of a slap in the face to Matthew Knies, who’s done everything asked of him on that top line, but we’ll stick with it for the purpose of this hypothetical. Bertuzzi has finally started to find his footing alongside John Tavares and William Nylander. Do you put Knies in his place and bump Bertuzzi down to the third line? Seems like a waste to have a guy making $5.5 million skating in the bottom six. 
But anyways, let’s continue with this. Say they do bump Bertuzzi down. That immediately wrecks the chemistry of the Domi-Nick Robertson-Calle Jarnkrok third line that’s been clicking so well lately. Not a huge deal I guess, if you’re bringing in a version of Kane who can produce like he’s advertised to, but now one of those forwards has to go on the fourth line. We know Robertson doesn’t work in a fourth line role. Jarnkrok has been arguably their best secondary scorer this year, and the alternative is an offence-first playmaker on a $3 million salary in Domi on the fourth line. 
It just seems like, for the Leafs to make room for Kane, they would have to rework their entire forward group, and I don’t think it’s worth the risk for Toronto considering the fact that he’s coming off hip surgery with no guarantee that he’ll be himself on the ice. Especially when their main area of need this season is so obviously on the back end and not up front. 
There’s also no guarantee what Kane is going to be asking for. Obviously, he’s not going to be making anything close to the $10.5 million annual contract he’s coming off of, but I’m writing this entire piece under the premise that he signs for league minimum. With as many as 5-6 teams in the running to sign him, I feel like there’s less of a chance he signs for that cheap. Signing for the highest dollar probably isn’t at the top of his priority list, but it will play a part no doubt. 
Also, I know that everyone’s seemingly moved on from this, but with the recent news of a second Black Ace coming forward against the Blackhawks with a lawsuit and sexual assault accusations towards then-video coach Brad Aldrich, it probably isn’t the best timing to bring one of the leaders of that team into this locker room. Especially when the whole theme of the offseason was beefing up their locker room strength – how else would Ryan Reaves get $1.3 million? 
In all honesty, I’m sure that Treliving is just kicking tires on Kane, like any responsible GM would. But I can’t see a world where a Kane-to-Toronto situation comes to fruition, or works out if it does. The GM has been vocal about his desire to revamp the Leafs’ defensive corps, and seeing the type of team he built in Calgary, I can’t imagine his priorities are going to rest in signing another all offence, no defence forward who ~might~ be able to bring his best game, and they shouldn’t rest there at all.

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