Kane should find a spot on the right wing of a line including former teammate Alex DeBrincat — whether J.T. Compher or Dylan Larkin is at center — and one of the team's two power-play units, which share ice time more than most teams.
Playing around quality players in offensively-oriented situations should help Kane put up solid numbers and show teams around the NHL that he has something left before hitting free agency again. Add in his familiarity playing alongside DeBrincat — plus a $2.75-million deal that many cap-strapped teams wouldn't have been able to match — and it's easy to see the appeal of Detroit for Kane.
On the Red Wings side of the equation, getting a proven offensive producer who managed a 92-point season as recently as 2021-22 for nothing but a relatively modest chunk of cap space is a defensible move.
There's reason to be skeptical if it will truly move the needle, though.
As much as Kane has accomplished, he's a mystery box at this point in his career. The winger had hip surgery just under six months ago, and he's coming off the worst season of his career.
It's possible that Kane's hip issues were largely to blame for an unimpressive campaign, and now that he's healthy he'll be an incredible bargain for Detroit. It's also plausible that he's deep into his decline phase and won't be able to get physically right this year.
Detroit's roll of the dice is reasonable, but it's also not fair to treat Kane like the missing piece to bring these Red Wings to a new level. While this team is exceeding expectations with an 11-6-3 record, there's reason to believe this squad isn't as strong as its record suggests.
That starts with the club's 5-on-5 play. Detroit has outscored its opponents 48-35 in that game state, which accounts for 92.9% of its goal differential (+13). However, much of that is explained by its league-high 5-on-5 shooting percentage of 11.27%. The Red Wings have been narrowly outshot at 5-on-5, and metrics related to quality of opportunities don't paint them in a flattering light.
An inability to consistently drive play at even strength isn't something Kane is likely to help Detroit with at this point of his career. Since the beginning of the 2020-21 season, the 35-year-old has produced worse possession numbers than his team's average performance at 5-on-5.
There's a reason that certain models don't see him as an impact player anymore, despite the fact he continues to produce solid point totals.
Patrick Kane, signed 1 year by DET, is a veteran playmaker. For years his pre-shot passing has been a model-breaker but it took a big hit last season, especially after the deadline. Play away from the puck has been a huge problem and he's coming off major hip surgery. #LGRW pic.twitter.com/j5eZj7uSww
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) November 28, 2023
The addition of Kane should bolster an already-strong power play in Detroit, and his playmaking might help finishers alongside him continue to convert at a surprisingly efficient clip. The veteran star has the skill set to help mitigate some of the regression that is likely to come Detroit's way.
While Kane can help the Red Wings, he seems unlikely to shift their paradigm.
The Red Wings have been kept afloat by hot shooting and goaltending that's been narrowly above average, despite the fact their top-two netminders — Ville Husso and James Reimer — are coming off 2022-23 seasons where they collectively produced a -32.7 GSAA.
Husso has struggled while Reimer has thrived, but the whole package has been solid thanks to red-hot journeyman Alex Lyon chipping in.
Some teams can win thanks to a combination of crisp finishing and solid goaltending rather than sustained possession if they have the right personnel. A Vancouver Canucks squad with excellent top-of-the-lineup talent and Vezina Trophy candidate Thatcher Demko between the pipes fits that bill.
Detroit is harder to believe in. Even with the addition of DeBrincat — and now Kane — this forward group doesn't seem likely to remain among the NHL's top finishers. The team's complicated goaltending situation could easily result in below-average production between the pipes from here on out.
The Red Wings' newest addition doesn't appear poised to make them less reliant on puck luck to remain competitive. He has been the kind of player capable of bending the math in his favor in the past, but that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. In his last three seasons, Kane has a shooting percentage of 8.8% and a 5-on-5 on-ice shooting percentage of 10.06%. It's tough to expect his presence to keep Detroit's hot shooting going.
From the beginning of the Kane sweepstakes, there has been a fundamental issue at the center of the intrigue. Teams good enough to give Kane a shot at another Stanley Cup ring were unlikely to be able to hand him the kind of prominent role his abilities are best suited for. True contenders don't tend to have gaping holes in their top-six and PP1 — even in the unlikely event that they possess free cap space.
In 2022-23, the Rangers tried fitting Kane into a smaller role than he was accustomed to, and they didn't get as much from him as they might've hoped in 26 games between the regular season and playoffs.
Kane arriving on an elite squad as an in-season addition and putting them over the top would've made for a heck of a storyline, but it was never particularly realistic.
The type of team capable of fitting such an X-factor into the sort of featured role Kane would be seeking — and makes the most sense in — wasn't going to be among the NHL's elite.
The Red Wings are a fun group of overachievers, and that ability to punch above their weight early on probably helped them get Kane in the first place. Now that they have him, their ultimate fate is unlikely to change, but at the very least they got a little bit more compelling on Tuesday.