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I’m going to be honest for a minute here: I’m definitely looking too far into one small comment made by Patrick Kane.
But for a guy who seems to be very calculated in what he says to the media, there’s something to him talking this way about another player.
Ahead of Saturday’s game against the Seattle Kraken, Kane met the media and confirmed that he was returning to the lineup after missing the past three games. With him coming back to the lineup, the Blackhawks sent 2020 first-round pick Lukas Reichel back to the Rockford IceHogs after a three-game stint in the NHL. Three games where Reichel was arguably the best Blackhawks player over that stretch of time.
When asked about what he saw from Reichel over the past week and a half while being out, Kane had high praise for the 20-year-old.
“He was playing well. Especially this year compared to last year, he’s playing with a lot more confidence, and all three games he played pretty well, I thought.”
Then, after saying he was excited to get back on the ice with his usual linemates, Max Domi and Philipp Kurashev, Kane dropped this line regarding Reichel, “Hopefully, he’s a guy I can play with in the future.”
Say what now?
Look, I know this statement likely means “later on this season,” like in a few more weeks or so, but the expectation is that Kane doesn’t have too many more weeks left to be a Chicago Blackhawk.
Or does he?
When Kyle Davidson met the media on Saturday morning, he had no specifics on the assumed upcoming meetings he’ll have with both Kane and Jonathan Toews and their agent Pat Brisson. Kane spoke with NBC Sports Chicago on their Blackhawks Talk Podcast this week regarding his recent injury and his future with the team and said he checked in with Davidson before the Christmas break but didn’t have details on his future yet.
Both Kane and Toews have their futures in their hands with full no-movement clauses on their identical expiring contracts. The general consensus is that both will want to move on from being Blackhawks and accept trades elsewhere prior to the March 3 NHL trade deadline.
But that is not a given.
There is a slim chance, but a real chance, that either player looks to see what is coming down the pipeline for Chicago before making their decision. That would likely mean waiting until after March 3. Which would surely make Kyle Davidson a little itchy. But what is coming could be the top overall draft pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, Connor Bedard, and a dynamic, confident Reichel. For Toews and Kane, especially Kane, that could be a very enticing combination of young players to want to continue their Blackhawks careers with.
“From what we saw from him [Reichel] this year, he seems like he’s a confident player,” Kane said of Reichel’s development on Saturday. “So it seems like what they are doing with him is working. I know they want to be patient with a lot of (young) players too, so that’s just kind of the way it is.”
Kane and Reichel have one game together this season, a Dec. 6 matchup against the New Jersey Devils where Reichel was flown in the day of the game and played on the second line, not with Kane. He played 13:58 minutes of ice time before being flown back to Rockford the next day.
Last season, Reichel played in his first 11 NHL games, all with Kane in the lineup. In Reichel’s NHL debut, he was paired with Kane and Brandon Hagel (you remember?) on the top line. The duo played together on the same line for the first four NHL games of Reichel’s career, but the final seven appearances for the German winger would not be with Kane as a linemate.
There was hope that when Kane returned to the lineup from his recent lower-body injury, that he and Reichel would potentially play together again on the same line. Obviously, that will not be the case. For now.
Kane has said on numerous occasions that he gets invigorated by playing with younger teammates and that he likes their energy in the locker room and on the ice. This is not to say that he would rather endure more losses just to play with Reichel, but maybe doing so a few more times this season gives Kane a tangible glimpse of the future of the organization on the ice. Pair that with the potential to play with Bedard, who he saw up close at this summer’s BioSteel camp and has no doubt paid attention to this season (at least during the World Junior Championships), and the chance of him and Reichel being teammates beyond this season maybe gets slightly bigger.
Again, the NHL trade deadline is March 3.
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