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Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Phil Thompson

Patrick Kane on ‘intriguing’ trade possibilities — and some tickets getting a price hike. What we learned as the Chicago Blackhawks returned from the All-Star break.

Patrick Kane didn’t outright say he’s open to a trade to a Stanley Cup contender, but the Chicago Blackhawks star did acknowledge some “potential suitors are “intriguing.”

Kane said he has had ongoing talks about his future with agent Pat Brisson, who also represents Jonathan Toews, another Hawk rumored to be on the trading block.

“(Brisson) told me a few that have reached out to him,” Kane said Monday after practice at Fifth Third Arena. “So, yeah, we’ll probably talk about that possibly, too, if that’s an option of getting traded and figure out a team that could be the best fit.

“But we’re not really at that point either.”

Kane didn’t elaborate on which teams have shown interest, but the New York Rangers — and a potential reunion with former linemate Artemi Panarin — long have dominated the rumor mill.

Various reports have said the Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers have inquired about Kane. And Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli suggests the Vegas Golden Knights could have the salary-cap space to make a big swing for Kane.

Asked about a preference, Kane said: “I don’t know. It’s tough to decide if we’re getting to that point yet, so there’s definitely opportunities out there that are intriguing and could be exciting. We’ll see.”

Both Kane and Toews have no-movement clauses in their contracts that expire after this season, so each would have to agree to a trade partner before Hawks general manager Kyle Davidson could move forward ahead of the March 3 trade deadline.

CEO Danny Wirtz said Davidson has his support to proceed with a trade if one materializes.

“I think we can all agree, (Kane and Toews) will be cemented in Blackhawks history,” Wirtz said. ”They’re going to be in the Hall of Fame and they’re tremendously important. So the hard part of these things is the decisions you have to make at this stage of (their) career in the organization.

“But we’re going to let that play out as it needs to both from the players’ perspective, (their) agent and obviously Kyle, all working together in constant contact to do what’s right for the players and do what’s right for the organization.”

Kane said his focus for the second half of the season is to “just try to go about my business playing hockey, but ... I’m sure at some point, probably (will) catch up with Kyle and see how it goes.”

Toews told NBC Sports Chicago last month: “There’s a part of me that sees the writing on the wall and sees that this team, this organization, is trying to hit the reset button and that maybe a change for everybody is not such a bad thing. And that goes for myself as well.”

Toews and Kane have said at various points they plan to huddle with Davidson this month, and Davidson has confirmed those talks will happen.

Kane has gotten feedback from former teammate Duncan Keith, whom the Hawks traded to the Oilers in July 2021 so he could spend his final season closer to his family in Penticton, British Columbia

“He said he was happy he got to experience being in a different organization and playing closer to home and he said he really enjoyed his time in Edmonton,” Kane said. “But that’s really it.”

Kane has resisted being pinned down on whether he’s leaning toward staying or going.

“We talked about it in the summer with (Brisson), just probably taking it up to the deadline and making a decision,” he said.

Here are five more things we learned as the Hawks returned from the All-Star break.

1. There’s a hitch with Kane — or more like a hip?

Kane has a nagging lower-body injury, though he hasn’t publicly confirmed the exact nature of the problem.

Several reports contend that other teams might be scared off from pursuing Kane, particularly if the 34-year-old is likely to command a long-term contract wherever he ends up.

“It’s not something I’m thinking about or worried about,” Kane said. “When I get on the ice, it’s not like you’re thinking about anything else except playing as well as you can.”

2. Hawks brass are bracing for life without Kane and Toews.

“They’re everything to the fan base,” said Jaime Faulkner, president of business operations.

She said her staff is looking at a range of scenarios — from both players staying to both leaving — and making plans accordingly.

“If they make decisions to leave, if things happen down the road … how do we make sure that we let our fans get to say thank you, get to say goodbye — (or) celebrate whether they stay? We just need to be prepared for that,” Faulkner said.

“We’re trying to be as gracious as possible. I mean, they are the Blackhawks identity right now. And we need to honor that with our fan base.”

She said if a trade happens, that would include communicating “very quickly with our membership base and our fans on the ‘why’ behind the decisions.”

The Hawks also would plan an on-ice tribute at the United Center if Kane or Toews returned with another team and would alert fans ahead of time.

While that may help smooth things over with the fan base this season, the absence of either player would leave a huge marketing gap in the future.

“We’re going to plan for the worst, hope for the best,” Faulkner said. “We wish we had a crystal ball and knew what was going to happen in the future. The best we can do is to plan for any one of those scenarios to happen.”

The Hawks have averaged 16,765 fans at the United Center this season, about 82% of capacity, after selling out 535 consecutive games from 2008 to 2021.

When the last two links to the Stanley Cup years make their exits, will the fans leave with them?

“If we have to make single-game pricing adjustments for that, we may have to do that to drive attendance,” Faulkner said. “We don’t want to compromise the experience in the game.

“But we’re pretty confident that our attendance will be fine. Going out, there’ll be variability. We just don’t know how much it will be. Hopefully it’s a non-issue.”

3. Eighty-four percent of Hawks tickets will remain flat next season — meaning 16% will see a price hike.

Faulkner downplayed the increase, though she didn’t offer how big it will be.

“Of the 16% that will be getting a very slight increase, that is based off information and data we have around the demand for those seats,” she said.

She said location and added amenities such as new club space factored into the new prices.

The Hawks will begin their ticket renewal program this week, but with the number of full-season packages down, they’re trying to make up ground with single-game tickets and smaller ticket packages.

“Our single-game sales are the highest they’ve ever been for the Blackhawks — about 25% of our revenue is coming in on single-game tickets,” Faulkner said. “We are intentionally doing this. We cannot diversify the fan base and grow the fan base if we have the same people coming into the building all the time.”

4. Just how much are the Hawks involved in Levy Restaurants’ labor dispute with United Center employees?

The short answer is “not very.”

“Those are led by Levy, who we outsource food and beverage to, so we’re not as involved in that,” Faulkner said. “But I would say we know how hard that workforce works for our fans every single night; they have the most touchpoints with our fans.”

About 650 concessions, food and beverage workers (98% of the workforce) voted last Tuesday to authorize a strike, according to their union, Unite Here Local 1.

The union gave no date for a strike — which would affect Hawks and Bulls games — other than it could begin “at any moment.” The Hawks play their first game since the All-Star break Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks

The workers and Levy return to the bargaining table Wednesday and Feb. 16, according to Levy.

“We’re just hopeful that they get to a resolution as quickly as possible for the benefit of them and for the benefit of our events and our fans,” Faulkner said.

Asked if the Hawks have a plan if a strike occurs, Faulkner said: ”Levy has a contingency plan. And they’re keeping us informed of that.”

5. If the Hawks had a do-over for the broadcasts this season, would they change anything?

Faulkner acknowledged she might handle how former goalie and fan favorite Scott Darling was integrated into the programming.

“If we’re being really honest, I think we brought Scott Darling in to be the guy who just tells it as it is,” she said. “Unfortunately, because of how we had to staff a couple things, we’ve put him in the role of being an analyst, which is not what we brought him in to do. ... We need to change that up a little bit and put him in a position where he’s really successful. That was unfair to him.

“So we are learning some of those things, right? Like, this is really casting characters almost. And we want to set people up for success.”

Faulkner said she’s happy with the work of TV play-by-play announcer Chris Vosters, who took over after Pat Foley retired.

Wirtz agreed and weighed in on the rest of the broadcast team.

“It’s as much about the right role with the right person,” he said. ”They’re all good people, they’re all talented, but getting in the (right) spot. Colby (Cohen) between the benches is a good example: He’s comfortable there, he’s got that on-ice perspective, he understands what it’s like to be on that bench, so I think he’s been much more effective in that role.

“But again, it takes a little time to figure (that) out. We’ve come a long way with the broadcasts, with Chris being the one consistent. Very pleased with his growth.”

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