VOLATILITY IN THE HAWK MARKET
Uncertainty abounds on potential Toews, Kane deals as deadline nears
The Rangers made a big trade acquisition Thursday — and it wasn’t Patrick Kane.
The Blackhawks held another practice Thursday — and it didn’t include Jonathan Toews.
With three weeks left until the NHL trade deadline, Hawks general manager Kyle Davidson’s objective to extract as much value as possible out of his two cornerstone veterans is getting increasingly complicated.
Of course, none of this matters if Kane and Toews don’t eventually inform Davidson they’re willing to be moved. Kane hinted this week he’s leaning toward entertaining trade possibilities, referencing “opportunities out there that are intriguing,” but he hasn’t decided yet. Toews, meanwhile, hasn’t hinted anything in any direction.
But even if Davidson does get their green lights, finding suitable trade partners won’t be guaranteed. And the odds he can, while still fairly high, decreased Thursday.
One issue is Toews’ health. He was absent from on-ice activities for the fifth consecutive day since the All-Star break and was ruled out for games Friday against the Coyotes and Saturday at the Jets. Those will be his fourth and fifth games missed due to “illness” since Dec. 5.
The good news is that he did return to Fifth Third Arena and work out in the gym, after which it “looked like he was feeling good,” coach Luke Richardson said. He’s expected to work out again and maybe get on the ice Friday.
The details of Toews’ latest illness have been difficult to nail down. Richardson said Wednesday he believed Toews had the flu but then said Thursday he actually “didn’t even ask him if he was flu-ish.” The most pressing question is if this is connected to his chronic inflammatory response syndrome.
If Toews does return to action soon — say, Tuesday against the Canadiens — and looks the same as usual, this might prove to be a big fuss about nothing. But potential trade suitors such as the Hurricanes, Avalanche and Jets surely are monitoring the situation.
Kane’s trade outlook also took a hit as the Rangers, the presumed front-runner in his sweepstakes, swung in a different direction to acquire Blues star Vladimir Tarasenko.
One of the main reasons behind the rampant Kane-to-Rangers speculation over the last few years has been Kane’s friendship with Hawks-turned-Rangers star Artemi Panarin. But Panarin is also close with Tarasenko, and the latter has filled all of his new team’s available salary-cap space.
From the Rangers’ perspective, Tarasenko was both immediately available — rather than still contemplating his future — and not potentially inhibited by a nagging lower-body injury. Kane has downplayed the severity of his injury, insisting it isn’t actively affecting him, but reports have drifted out of New York for weeks suggesting his injury was particularly disenchanting to them.
Western contenders such as the Stars, Kings and Golden Knights are still theoretically logical fits for Kane. But the precedent-setting return the Blues received for Tarasenko probably didn’t excite Davidson much.
The Rangers gave up the later of their two first-round picks as well as a fourthround pick. They also swapped a depth forward (Sammy Blais) and a low-tier prospect (Hunter Skinner) for a depth defenseman (Niko Mikkola).
Kane is a bigger star than Tarasenko and always has been more productive — even this season, in which he touts 35 points to Tarasenko’s 29 — but he’s three years older. Their pending unrestricted free-agency and no-trade clauses (allowing them to dictate where they want to go) are identical.
So Kane’s value might be slightly higher than Tarasenko’s, but likely not by much. That means the Blues’ move not only eliminates a top Kane bidder but also throws cold water on the Hawks’ presumed asking price of a package of a first-rounder and high-tier prospect.