David Lipscomb The Hockey Writers
Patrick Kane’s Magically Healing Shoulder Causes Concern
When Blackhawks star Patrick Kane suffered a shoulder injury in late February, the team was struggling to maintain a top four position in the NHL’s Central division. As time went on and the trade deadline approached, one doesn’t need to be cynical to assume that Kane was healing far faster than initially expected. Once day one of the Stanley Cup playoffs began, who was magically healed and ready? Patrick Kane — probably at 12:01 AM after the regular season had ended.
Why Get Depth When Talent is Available?
Acquiring Antoine Vermette and Kimo Timmonen before the deadline were pickups that, had Kane been healthy, would have been impossible without a depth-depleting trade or pushing the team over the cap. These are the types of players that superficially were supposed to help offset the loss of Kane in the lineup. These are pickups that are realistically third-line or third-pairing guys that are better than the average “depth” players teams normally acquire. And of course, these are players that could never be expected to offset Kane’s contributions. So why then wouldn’t the team trade for someone that might be able to do just that?
The Blackhawks must have known Patrick Kane would be ready to go.
A Dangerous Precedent
These types of shenanigans are not without precedent. Teams (looking at you late ’70s Edmonton Oilers) used to routinely bring in overseas/unsigned talent at the start of the playoffs to bolster roster depth, and add scoring threats that other teams didn’t have tape on. That tactic was eventually made illegal, but this scenario is quite similar. No one is asserting that Kane “faked” an injury — simply that the actual duration of it was extended to conveniently end after the salary cap had influence on the Blackhawk’s roster — and this is the result. With all the attention “Deflategate” is getting in the press, and by the Patriots throwing a ballboy under the bus, this situation seems a little more nefarious. Personnel decisions, especially with a guy as influential and game-changing as Kane, are made squarely in Stan Bowman’s office or above. Unless the NHL keeps a close eye on the facts of this situation, other teams similarly inclined toward deception might attempt similar deeds. With talk of Patrick Sharp on his way out in an attempt to shed salary next season, an all-in approach is clearly evident.
NHL Can’t Penalize Hawks for Following the Rules
The slickest thing about this is, the Blackhawks are squarely within the rules as the NHL has laid them out. For now. By placing Kane on long-term injured reserve (LTIR), the team was dutifully relieved of cap space. All that was required was “medical clearance,” which in this case presumably entails the front office calling up the team doctor and telling him Kane is ready. Whether or not the Hawks hoist their third Cup in six years remains to be seen, but on thing is certain: The team is stronger with Kane and their trade deadline windfalls.
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