How the Patrick Kane Injury Affects the Chicago Blackhawks

One of the best players in the NHL just changed the outlook of a Stanley Cup favorite.

The Chicago Blackhawks and the hockey world received bad news Wednesday when it was announced that Patrick Kane will be out 12 weeks after surgery to repair a broken collarbone, according to the team.

A legal hit by Florida Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic led to an awkward fall and collision between Kane and the boards during the first period of Chicago’s 3-2 shootout win Tuesday evening. Kane was placed on long-term injured reserve Wednesday.

The NHL announced that there would be no discipline for Petrovic.

Chicago is tied as numberFire’s second-best team according to nERD, and they're the fifth most likely team to raise the Stanley Cup. Chicago was as high as second in championship winning odds just a week ago.

The big picture for the Hawks is less than perfect in the near and somewhat distant future. The league’s scoring co-leader was on track to the be the first American to lead the NHL in scoring while being a constant presence in what has been an up-and-down season for the Blackhawks. Now, Chicago is left looking for a fill-in to try and replace some of the production Kane brought before suffering his injury.

Kane has averaged 1.05 points and 3.05 shots per game in over 19 minutes per contest this year. Kane is also averaging 1.21 goals and .80 assists per 60 minutes played as well as 8.84 shots per 60 at even strength. The Blackhawks have scored 57.8% of their goals when he is on the ice, the highest percentage of his career. It makes sense that the Buffalo native has been in the Art Ross Trophy conversation.

How can the Blackhawks replace those numbers? Well, they can’t. Superior scoring doesn’t just show up to the ice unannounced. What Chicago will do, in the meantime, is hope that any combination of Kris Versteeg, Teuvo Teravainen and (insert players here) fill in admirably on the second line. The two known commodities have averaged .59 points per game combined.

Chicago could also explore a trade before the trade deadline on March 2nd, as Kane’s move to the long-term injury reserve frees up $5.4 million. Once the playoffs begin, the salary cap is moot. Kane’s return would not be until the playoffs in a best-case scenario, so any additional cap additions (players) would not hurt the team’s bottom line.

The only conundrum that Chicago would be in would be the type of player that they could acquire. An expiring contract helps Chicago, while adding a restricted free agent or player with years left on his contract means that current players on the NHL roster would have to be traded. Or even more cap-related player deals would have to take place during the offseason.

There are a few players that Chicago has had their eye on with expiring deals, so let’s take a look at them. All money figures are courtesy of NHLNumbers.com, and stats are from Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com.

Jeff Petry, Defenseman ($3.075 million)

The theme for Chicago at the trade deadline is to identify and add a puck-moving defenseman. Petry is somehow managing a 51.6 Corsi For percentage at even strength on a miserable Edmonton Oilers team. He's also seeing the second fewest amount of zone starts in the offensive zone among Oiler blueliners. Petry is about as good of a "Plan B" on defense as Chicago can get.

Kimmo Timonen, Defenseman ($3.5 million)

It is great to see the long-time Finnish defenseman healthy enough to be headed back to the ice. The 40-year old Timonen has been a consistent offensive defenseman. He has led the Philadelphia Flyers defensemen in Corsi For percentage in 2013-14 (55.1) and is a seasoned power play blueliner. He is what he is on the tail-end of his career, but Chicago needs another player who can push the offense by securing defensive zone exits.

Antoine Vermette, Center ($3.75 million)

The veteran center has been attached to the Blackhawks in trade rumors multiple times over the past few seasons and would help shore up Chicago down the middle, especially in the defensive zone and in the faceoff circle. Vermette has seen 34.5% of his zone starts in his own zone and is the leading force on the Arizona Coyotes penalty kill. He is winning 56.1% of the faceoffs that he is taking.

There is a chance that these trades could include an unwanted contract leaving the Blackhawks. Bryan Bickell is making a cool $4 million and has failed to use his size to dictate play and contribute more consistently in the offensive zone. Andrew Shaw has seen his playing time fluctuate because of his penchant for taking bad penalties. The former 20-goal scorer has yet to crack double digits this season. Shaw is making $1.5 million playing bottom-six forward minutes.

Chicago is a top five possession team, and Bickell and Shaw are both over 50 percent in Corsi For at even strength. That said the Blackhawks are starved for scoring depth, and the loss of Kane accentuates the emphasis for more scoring throughout the lineup. The team’s puck-possession style is a system that a new addition could adapt to.

Any way you slice it, the Chicago Blackhawks are going to miss Patrick Kane. He is one of the most dynamic players in the NHL today and one of a small group that demands the attention of all five opponents when they skate against him. Chicago knows how to turn on ‘the switch’ when the games are tighter and the Stanley Cup is in sight. That time has to start now if the Blackhawks, who have an 8.88 percent chance to win it all, want to realize their fullest potential.