What they received wasn’t far off.
The Blackhawks announced Wednesday Kane is expected to miss 12 weeks after undergoing successful surgery to a repair a left clavicle fracture. That brings Kane’s target return date to May 20, meaning the Blackhawks will have to make a deep playoff run if Kane is to play again this season.
The question now is how do the Blackhawks make a Stanley Cup run without him?
Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman likely is putting his unlimited phone plan to use today. The Blackhawks placed Kane on long-term injured reserved earlier in the day and now have his $6.3 million cap hit to utilize elsewhere.
At least Kane's injury came at a favorable time, what with the trade deadline still ahead on March 2. If Kane’s injury had occurred a week later, the Blackhawks wouldn’t have had the luxury to explore other options.
When Bowman spoke in late January, he didn’t expect the Blackhawks to be major players at the deadline, but he did say that could all change with injuries. That’s certainly the case now.
“There will be some injuries as things go along, but I still feel comfortable with our depth from within, and the young players are going to be excited to be here and hungry to show that they belong,” Bowman said on Jan. 21. “In terms of adding players outside, things can change obviously if you have a couple of injuries between now and the deadline and then you have holes you got to fill and some cap space then. So we’re doing our work and preparing for it. I wouldn’t expect us to be making a lot of trades.”
What Bowman has to figure out is whether the Blackhawks want to add another offensive forward (Antoine Vermette has been mentioned), another depth forward (Chris Stewart is in that mix) or another defenseman (possibly someone like Jeff Petry). They also could look into adding a few of those players.
The Blackhawks will likely be targeting only expiring contracts. Their cap situation will get even worse next season, with Kane's and Jonathan Toews' extensions going into effect. They already have about $65 million committed to 15 players for the 2015-16 season, and that doesn’t include having to pay Brandon Saad, who will be a restricted free agent after this season.
That’s all part of the equation, too. While the Blackhawks are in need now, they also have to plan for the future. Teams will be asking for draft picks and prospects. The Blackhawks will be leaning on their system more for future prospects than ever before because of their cap situation. Bowman has to weigh what is important now against what is important later.
The Blackhawks recalled their top prospect, Teuvo Teravainen, on Wednesday morning. His upside is his offensive game, especially his vision. He was solid during a 15-game span when Kris Versteeg was injured last month. Teravainen will slot into a top-nine role.
Offensively, the Blackhawks still have a lot of firepower with a top line of Saad, Toews and Marian Hossa and a second line of Patrick Sharp, Brad Richards and Versteeg. Hossa’s goal scoring finally came around earlier in February, and Sharp is due for the same. Saad, Toews and Versteeg have been consistent for much of the season. The Blackhawks could use Bryan Bickell getting into his playoff form earlier.
The Blackhawks’ issue this season often has been defensive consistency. Their depth hasn’t been the same since they traded Nick Leddy prior to the season to get under the salary cap. Rookie defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk surprised many early on, but he’s been out since Nov. 16 with a knee injury; he could be back in March. Veteran defensemen Johnny Oduya and Michal Rozsival haven’t been completely reliable, and the Blackhawks haven’t found an absolute answer in any of their defenseman prospects. It doesn't help them that Oduya also is injured right now. For all those reasons, defensive performance might be Bowman’s most pressing concern.
The next six days should be telling as the Blackhawks piece together a final roster for a stretch run without Kane. And with the Central Division far from being decided, there should be plenty of drama ahead.