Blackhawks star Patrick Kane leaves team amid trade talk

Chicago Blackhawks star right winger Patrick Kane has left the team ahead of Saturday night's game against the San Jose Sharks and returned to Chicago, the team announced Saturday.

Kane's departure is sure to reignite speculation of his eventual trade to the New York Rangers, who are considered the favorite to land his services ahead of the NHL's March 3 trade deadline.

"As of today, he has flown back to Chicago to, I think, until the situation rectifies itself either way," coach Luke Richardson said after Chicago's morning skate on Saturday.

Given the mutual interest between Kane and the Rangers, there has been a surge in momentum toward a possible deal, sources told ESPN's Emily Kaplan. It comes with the caveat that Kane, who is a pending unrestricted free agent, has a no-movement clause, which means the Blackhawks would hypothetically have to accept whatever the Rangers are willing to offer in return.

The buzz around Kane's potential departure intensified Saturday with the news that Kane would not play against the Sharks. Shortly thereafter, the Rangers made a pair of moves, first placing forward Jake Leschyshyn ($766,667 cap hit) on waivers. A few hours later, the team traded forward Vitali Kravstov to the Vancouver Canucks for forward Will Lockwood and a seventh-round pick in the 2026 draft. That move cleared $875,000 in salary cap space for the Rangers, while landing the team a draft asset. CapFriendly projects the team to have $433,319 in available cap space.

The Rangers are still hoping to find a third-party broker that could retain part of Kane's salary to help alleviate the cost of Kane's $10.5 million cap hit, sources told Kaplan.

Adding Kane, who has scored 16 goals and 45 points in 54 games this season, would strengthen the Rangers' top-six forward corps.

Earlier this month, the Rangers acquired winger Vladimir Tarasenko in a trade with the St. Louis Blues. Tarasenko has scored two goals and four points in seven games with the Rangers, who entered Saturday third in the Metropolitan Division.