If the Blackhawks trade Alex DeBrincat, will Patrick Kane want out?

If the Blackhawks trade DeBrincat, will Kane want out? originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The biggest storyline that’s emerged out of Chicago is whether or not the Blackhawks will trade All-Star winger Alex DeBrincat before the summer is over. It’s more likely than not he will be moved at some point, and this offseason is probably the time to do it if you’re GM Kyle Davidson.

If/when that happens, the next top storyline would instantly become: Will Patrick Kane want out?

It’s no secret Kane wasn’t happy when the Blackhawks traded his favorite linemate Artemi Panarin in 2017, and you can’t imagine he’d be thrilled if DeBrincat is shipped away too. In fact, Kane has already subtly indicated that his potential future in Chicago could be tied to DeBrincat’s.

In his exit interview, Kane was asked whether working with the younger players could be enough to satisfy him during the rebuilding years. At the end of his answer, he went out of his way to say how much he’s enjoyed playing with DeBrincat and basically implied that if DeBrincat is part of the plan, Kane will probably stick around too.

Here’s the full response, with the DeBrincat quote highlighted in bold:

“As a player, you’re always trying to personally improve yourself and try to get better every day,” Kane said. “And I think that’s something that I feel I can be even better at, is trying to help these guys develop a little bit quicker, point some things out on the ice that are just little details that might help our team. Especially when they ‘ re in the back of your mind and you can know that certain things are going to happen out there.

“It could be a good thing. I’ve enjoyed always being around the younger guys and I feel like I’m still a young kid at heart, the way I go about my business and daily life. But I think another thing is, obviously I’ve developed some chemistry with DeBrincat over the years. And if he’s here and if he’s a big piece, then that makes it easier for me, too, right? Because I’m playing with him every day and he’s such a good player and it makes it fun to be out there with him. We’ll see how it all shakes out. “

Not hard to read between the lines there.

Davidson’s approach has been pretty clear from Day 1. His job isn’t to sell Kane – or Jonathan Toews – on the rebuild, it’s being transparent about the direction, and then the two franchise icons can decide for themselves whether or not they want to be a part of it.

Kane is entering the final year of a contract that carries a $ 10.5 million cap hit and full no-movement clause, which means he holds all the cards. He is eligible to sign an extension with the Blackhawks beginning on July 13, although it’s difficult to see him committing long-term without some more clarity on what the roster and potential rebuild timeline could look like.

The worst-case scenario is Kane commits to playing out the final year of his deal and then decides to walk via free agency, with the Blackhawks getting nothing in return for him. The better scenario – again, if DeBrincat is moved and Kane is subsequently open to a trade – is for the Blackhawks to move Kane either this offseason or at the deadline to recoup some future assets.

The best-case scenario? Kane finishes his career in Chicago and goes down as the greatest Blackhawk ever, the way it should be. He’d very clearly prefer to wear one sweater his entire career, but everybody knows it’s a business and it’d be hard to fault Kane if he felt the Blackhawks’ rebuild didn’t line up with the timeline he had in his head and entertains the possibility of playing elsewhere.

“Yeah, I think so,” Kane said in March when asked whether the goal is to finish his career with the Blackhawks. “There’s probably a lot of time to determine what’s going to happen in that regard, but I mean, let’s be honest. I love Chicago, I love the city, I love the fans, the organization’s been amazing to me and my family, so there’s really not much to [not] like here.

“But I think there’s always business decisions. I know in the game of hockey there’s not many guys that have played their whole career with one team, so it would be a privilege and an honor to do that, but I guess we’ll see how it all plays out. “

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