How Patrick Kane injury may help Blackhawks

Patrick Kane (Andrew A. Nelles/AP)

With Patrick Kane now out for approximately 12 weeks with a left clavicle fracture, the Chicago Blackhawks may have just set the table for another Stanley Cup run. Now, all they have to do is get into the marketplace before everyone gets snapped up.

The Hawks were up against the cap, with just over $1 million in cap space available. The team was playing a fairly average brand of hockey by their standards, going a pedestrian 11-10-3 since Jan. 1, and management was hoping to find a way to acquire a left-shot defenceman before Monday’s trading deadline.

There was a good chance they would have had to send some salary back the other way, however, like the Pittsburgh Penguins did in including Zach Sill in the Daniel Winnik deal Wednesday.

Then Florida defenceman Alex Petrovic gives the NHL’s leading scorer Patrick Kane an awkward little shove on the hip Tuesday night in Chicago, and suddenly everything has changed.

Sadly, the Blackhawks best offensive player and league-leading scorer is done until the post-season. That’s never good, especially with the Winnipeg Jets just four points back in the Central, and the Blackhawks core players looking very much like a group that has simply played too much spring hockey over the past five seasons.

Then, as the doctor’s report comes back on Kane, the light bulb goes on. By placing Kane on long-term injury reserve it will keep him on the shelf until the playoffs begin.

That’s standard procedure, considering the playoffs begin in seven weeks and we now know Kane will be out for roughly 12. If this had happened after Monday’s deadline, it would have been all bad news for the Hawks.

However, by putting Kane on LTIR the Blackhawks just freed up another $6.5 million in available cap space. Using full season numbers, the Hawks could add the equivalent of $7.5 million worth of AAV prior to Monday. That would easily take in the left-shot defenceman Chicago covets, plus a right-winger to replace Kane, perhaps Jaromir Jagr at $5.5 million.

Then Kane returns in the playoffs when there is no salary cap in effect.

“This opens (Chicago) up to add significant salary,” said one Western Conference executive.

Think of Chris Pronger in Philadelphia. The Flyers carry his annual AAV of $4 million on their cap all summer, but place him on LTIR when the season starts and the CBA mandates teams must comply with the cap. They get that cap relief to spend on other players, rather than operating at $4 million under the cap ceiling.

Assuming Blackhawks ownership decides to ante up the extra payroll, the Hawks will do the same, with all the rental players’ salary coming off of their books on June 30. And in case you were thinking that Phil Kessel might be the perfect choice to hold Kane’s spot on right wing next to Jonathan Toews, don’t get too worked up.

Because Kane and Toews begin their new deals next season, with matching AAV’s of $10.5 million — plus the fact that Brandon Saad is due for a big raise, and Johnny Oduya is a UFA who is likely to move on — the Blackhawks are limited to rental players when spending the largesse of cap space the Kane injury has presented them with. They can’t take on any term at all in the coming days.

This isn’t something the Blackhawks could plan, and if you’d have asked general manager Stan Bowman if he wanted Kane out for the rest of the season with an injury, he might have had you thrown out of the building for drinking on the job.

Kane was having a career season, and was the NHL’s leading scorer heading into action Wednesday. But there is a silver lining here, cap-wise.

Now, it’s up to Blackhawks ownership to open up the bank and spend some of that money from the $10 beers at the United Center.

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