CHICAGO — While Patrick Kane is deciding if he is OK with leaving the Chicago Blackhawks — his only NHL home — the veteran forward is keeping track of the rest of the league.
So, yeah, he definitely noticed the New York Rangers trading for fellow winger Vladimir Tarasenko on Thursday.
“If things were going to happen … that was a team that I was definitely looking at,” Kane said. “Yeah, it seems like they kind of filled their void and went ahead and made a deal.”
The Rangers may be out of the picture, which shelves a potential reunion for Kane and former teammate Artemi Panarin, but there are plenty of possibilities as Kane contemplates his future ahead of the NHL trade deadline on March 3.
Kane and Chicago captain Jonathan Toews are in the final year of their contracts. The Blackhawks are one of the league’s worst teams this season, but Kane and Toews have no-movement clauses in the extensions they finalized in July 2014.
They could decide to finish the season with their only NHL team. Or the three-time Stanley Cup winners could provide general manager Kyle Davidson the name of a team or teams that they would be willing to join.
As the deadline approaches, their decisions are being closely watched.
“Just trying to figure things out,” Kane said before Friday’s game against Arizona. “Probably make a decision in the next couple weeks here and just go with that.”
There has been no word of late from Toews, who has been out all week with an illness and won’t play in the matchup with the Coyotes or in Saturday night’s game in his hometown of Winnipeg.
“We’re just letting him get his feet wet and get some strength back,” first-year coach Luke Richardson said. “He had, I guess, a really solid bike ride yesterday and felt good after, so that’s a good first step.”
Depending on what Kane and Toews decide — along with interest in forwards Max Domi and Sam Lafferty — the lowly Blackhawks could look much different very soon.
Richardson sounds prepared for whatever happens.
“I knew the plan coming in, and we’re not sure where it’s going to go,” he said. “It just depends on what other teams call and want to do, more so than what we really want to do here.”
Kane has nine goals and 26 assists in 46 games heading into the matchup with Arizona. His numbers are down this year, but he has been hurt by the lack of talent around him.
Just last season, when Chicago had Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome, Kane scored 26 times and matched a career best with 66 assists in 78 games.
The 34-year-old Kane also brushed off reports of a hip issue drawing concerns from contenders.
“I feel better than I did last year, and I had a pretty good season last year,” he said. “So it’s just one of those things. I think maybe the story leaks out and it piles up a little bit.”
The Blackhawks are rebuilding under Davidson, and Kane and Toews could bring in more assets for the team’s future plans. But the return on any trade could hinge on how many teams are in the mix for each player’s services.
That is solely up to Kane and Toews — something Kane said he is conscious of as he thinks about his next step.
“You want to do right by the franchise, and the organization here has been amazing to me and given me so much,” he said. “So definitely want what’s best for both sides.”