11/17/23: Emily Kaplan writes at ESPN that she believes Kane wanted to return to the Rangers but that Chris Drury likely told him that they wouldn’t be able to make it work with the cap.
11/14/23: Larry Brooks writes that the Rangers are not one of the teams in on Patrick Kane and they are not expected to speak with him while he decides on his next team. (NY Post)
Brooks says that the Rangers “have never been in the mix” about signing Kane after his recovery from hip resurfacing surgery. (NY Post)
Adam Rotter: This isn’t entirely surprising for two main reasons, among others. For as much as the Rangers are in a “win now” mode, they still had uncertainty about what exactly they have and could have in Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere. The hope was to have those two in the top two spots on the RW for at least half the season and to see how they would perform. Lafreniere has excelled so far on the right side of Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck/Filip Chytil, while Kakko skated on the top-line for a while and has since been moved to the third line to see if Blake Wheeler could get anything going. Bringing Kane back would have relegated at least one of those two to the third line.
Then there is arguably the bigger reason in that the Rangers don’t have the salary cap space to bring Kane back. Without moving out a player the Rangers really didn’t have the room to do it. Kane likely isn’t going to sign for the league minimum and the Rangers couldn’t give him an incentive based contract like they gave Blake Wheeler and like the Bruins did last year with Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. The Rangers had to jump through so many hoops to make the trade for Kane for last year and I’m not even sure if they would even have those same kind of hoops available to them right now. Later on in the season, after they have banked some cap space and could get some teams to retain salary then maybe, but Chris Drury and Peter Laviolette made their moves in the offseason likely knowing that Kane wasn’t going to be an option.
There is also the risk involved with bringing Kane back after his hip surgery. Would it be worth subtracting players and playing short or whatever to scrape together the money needed for a player that will likely be better than the version they acquired last year, but has no guarantee? There is also adding him again after the team has gone through a training camp and started to build something under Peter Laviolette. Kane was compromised last year when they brought him in and that certainly played a part in his inconsistency, but him being forced into roles and players trying to force plays to him disrupted things.
Kane wanted to be a Ranger and I think it was worth the gamble, especially after Game 2 against New Jersey when it looked like he and the Rangers might have found something. Obviously things went south quickly after that and Kane’s time with the Rangers was short. It’s also something to remember that the Rangers initially chose Vladimir Tarasenko over Kane or at least they felt they had to move for Tarasenko since Kane was undecided, and hampered with injury, at that point. But Kane wanted to be a Ranger and they were able to make it happen. The feeling since the end of last season, or at least since July 1, was that Kane likely wasn’t going to be back….unless the Rangers were the only team he wanted to play for again. There were some who thought that Kane wanted another crack at it with the Rangers and I think that is why, after weeks of them not being mentioned around Kane, reports started coming out again about them and Kane, but it appears that those were just speculation and that Kane is comfortable with going to other teams this time around. If Kane only signs with someone for the rest of this season then maybe this all gets revisited in the offseason or maybe after next season, but it seems pretty clear at this point that when he returns to the NHL in a few weeks it won’t be with the Rangers.