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NHL Hot Stove 2012: Should the Bruins Trade for Patrick Kane?

Is Patrick Kane the answer to the Bruins' problems?
Is Patrick Kane the answer to the Bruins' problems?

There will, without a doubt, be a steady stream of articles about Rick Nash and the Bruins right up until the day Nash is finally traded somewhere other than Boston. I'm already on record about Nash, and won't waste further time on a pickup that I think makes little sense for the Bruins on multiple levels.

There is, however, a player who may be on the market who would make a whole lot more sense for the Bruins. Patrick Kane is a young, top six forward on a reasonable contract (3 more years at a total of about $19 million) who can score (126 goals before his 24th birthday) and is extremely productive on the power play (4.62 PP points/60 min as a rookie, then 5.93, 6.52 and 5.62 before a fluky 2.42 last year). He's also a natural right wing, which is Boston's weakest position in the forward corps. After Kane's latest bout with alcohol-fueled stupidity, rumors abound that Chicago may be fielding offers for the star winger.

Kane had a bit of a down season last year, with a 23-43-66 line that was the worst of his career. We can write a fair amount of that off to poor puck luck; Kane's 9.1 shooting percentage was by far the lowest of his career. If he'd put pucks in the net at the 11.2% rate that he was scoring at prior to last season, he would have had 28 goals. It also probably didn't help that he was playing without running buddy Jonathan Toews for a big chunk of the year, and often played at center, instead of his more familiar wing position. In any case, I'm willing to give him a pass on last season, even if the Blackhawks may not be as willing to.

He does not come free of warts, of course. His boorish off-ice behavior in Chicago is what has the Blackhawks supposedly considering shopping him. The Bruins locker room and coaching staff have kept party animals under control, though (cough, Marchand), and a trade often serves as a wakeup call for such players. More to the point, I'm not supremely interested in anything Kane does off the ice that doesn't lead to discipline from the league. So he's a guy who acts like a prick when he has a couple beers too many, big deal. If he scores 30 goals, he can piss off every cab driver from Woonsocket to Portsmouth for all I care.

The bigger issue is that Kane has been the beneficiary of some very soft ice time. No Blackhawk forward started in the offensive zone than Kane, who began two of every three shifts in the opponents' zone, a number that would be unheard of in Boston. Meanwhile, Kane has been the beneficiary of excellent teammates (he had the highest quality of teammates of any Blackhawk forward last year), but his quality of competition was in the middle of the road, suggesting that the Blackhawks were giving Kane every chance to produce offensively. This is surely not a Ville Leino type of situation, but it could be that Kane, for all his talent, may never be a consistent 30 goal scorer. Sound familiar, Bruin fans?

Still, at age 24 (as of November), Kane may still have some improvement left in him. Kane would instantly become a huge scoring threat on the Bruins, and on a more balanced offense, it would be hard for opponents to key on him the way they often did in Chicago. To me, any argument against acquiring Patrick Kane, in the abstract, is simply an exercise in nitpicking. At a bare minimum, he upgrades the top 6 forwards, something that needs to be a priority for the Bruins; the idea of getting Kane is a good one, if he's truly available.

The real question is what Boston could give up that would make sense for both teams. If the Bruins are looking to upgrade the top 6 forwards, it makes little sense to ship out one of their top six forwards in exchange. Chicago's first inquiry would surely be "what about Seguin?", at which point I would expect Peter Chiarelli to shout four-letter words at Stan Bowman until he moved on to another topic. Similar reactions would, I hope, follow any request for Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand or Patrice Bergeron. Marchand and Bergeron were more productive than Kane this year, by measure of GVT, and Lucic wasn't far behind, and each comes with a more favorable contract. And of course, trading one quality top six winger for another does not lead to much net improvement.

Boston, of course, would want to work out a swap of Tim Thomas and something else for Kane. Tim Thomas and Rich Peverley would be reasonable, in terms of absolute value, it might be a bit of a hard sell for the Blackhawks unless they're desperate to move Kane. In fairness, that may be the case; the silence from Chicago's front office on this matter speaks volumes. If Peter Chiarelli can get Kane for Thomas and Peverley, or even throw in a prospect whose name doesn't rhyme with "Shuggie Shamilton", he has to pull the trigger. That's an easy call. But the Blackhawks might be less than willing to part with one of their three best players for a 38 year old goaltender and a second line-caliber winger. The deal might well come down to this: Tuukka Rask for Patrick Kane. And I'm not sure who says no to that. I think the Blackhawks would do it; they badly need goaltending.

But what about the Bruins? If you accept, as I do, the notion that it makes no sense for Boston to keep the Thomas/Rask tandem together any longer, then the deal merits serious consideration. If one makes the case that Kane isn't sufficient return for Rask, or that the Bruins' priority needs to be moving Thomas no matter what, I'm willing to listen. However, I'm less sympathetic to the argument that a backup goaltender is somehow more important than a first line winger. A backup goaltender will make a difference in somewhere between 20 and 30 games...and zero in the playoffs. As a thought exercise, consider who the B's would have rather had in this year's playoffs: Kane or Rask. With a forward corps that needs some more skill, and a defense that's pretty ordinary after Zdeno Chara, having a top 10 goaltender as a backup is no longer a luxury Boston can afford.

The Bruins could gamble on getting two more good years out of Thomas and worry about finding Thomas' successor later. Maybe it's Anton Khudobin, maybe it's Niklas Svedberg, maybe it's Zane Gothberg, who knows? With an offense like that, they could weather Thomas' decline quite nicely, especially if Dougie Hamilton develops quickly and upgrades the defense.

There may be better options for the Bruins than to trade Rask for Kane, but Peter Chiarelli would have to strongly consider it.