A little over half a week ago, it was reported that on his way back from hip surgery, Patrick Kane had been linked to four teams within the Eastern Conference; the Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, and New York Rangers. Most likely looking for his best chance to compete for another Stanley Cup towards the end of his career, the Panthers and Rangers seem to be the best potential fits for Kane moving forward.
In his podcast, 32 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet said, “We’re starting to get close to the Patrick Kane decision, I think this week he’s going to start talking to some teams. Bill Zito, the GM of Florida, has been one of the most aggressive GMs when it comes to Kane” (X Link).
It’s relatively unsurprising to see that the Panthers are becoming more aggressive in their pursuit of Kane, as although the defending Eastern Conference Champions are off to a solid 9-4-1 start, they still sit 19th in the league in GF/G. So far this year, their defense (notably missing both Brandon Montour and Aaron Ekblad), as well as their goaltending have been the driving factor in their entry out of the gates this season.
However, Florida will have a difficult time fitting Kane into the mix, as when Montour and Ekblad eventually come back into the fold, the team will have less than $100K available to them in cap space. If Kane is willing to sign a league minimum contract for one season, the Panthers should be able to fit Kane in, but they will have to make some moves to make that happen.
Overall, even if the Panthers are the most aggressive in bringing Kane into their lineup, that does not necessarily mean he will end up in Florida. Being a hometown native of Buffalo, as well as a former Ranger, Kane should have a certain comfortability in returning home to New York state if he so chooses. Also, as has been typical over the last several seasons during his tenure as General Manager of the Detroit Red Wings, Steve Yzerman has notably kept his cards very close to the chest.