Patrick Kane's injury creates one big hole in the Chicago Blackhawks' lineup and a host of possibilities, some riskier than others, for general manager Stan Bowman.
Kane will need up to 12 weeks to fully recover from surgery he had Wednesday to repair a left-clavicle injury he sustained at 7:49 of the first period Tuesday against the Florida Panthers. That means Kane will not be able to return until the Western Conference Final, at the earliest.
PATRICK KANE INJURY
Hawks' Kane out 12 weeks after surgery
Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane will be out approximately 12 weeks after he had successful surgery Wednesday to repair a broken left clavicle sustained Tuesday against the Florida Panthers, the Blackhawks announced. READ MORE ›
Kane was tied for the NHL scoring lead with 64 points and led the Blackhawks with 27 goals and 37 assists. He was having the best season of his career and was threatening to become the first American-born player to win the Art Ross Trophy.
Kane is an irreplaceable talent, but the Blackhawks are rare in that they don't necessarily have to look outside the organization to replace him. They can insert another top-six forward into his spot because they have at least seven top-six forwards.
Kris Versteeg had been playing second-line minutes with Kane and Brad Richards until this week, when Quenneville started to juggle his lines because the Blackhawks were scuffling with two wins in seven games entering Tuesday.
Versteeg started the game against Florida on the third line with Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw but moved up to play with Richards and Patrick Sharp after Kane was injured. Sharp, a four-time 30-goal scorer, had been squeezed out of Chicago's top-six forward group until Tuesday.
Sharp has 32 points in 47 games this season; Versteeg has 31 points in 41 games.
The Blackhawks are expected to turn to rookie Teuvo Teravainen as the first option to replace Kane on the roster; he was recalled from Rockford of the American Hockey League on Wednesday. He had been playing in the AHL since being sent down Feb. 12. Teravainen has four points in 15 games with the Blackhawks.
The addition of Teravainen gives Quenneville another center option in case he doesn't like the way Richards or Shaw is playing. To start, though, it's likely that Teravainen will play on the third line with Shaw and Bickell.
Chicago is third in the Central Division, three points behind the second-place St. Louis Blues but four points clear of the fourth-place Winnipeg Jets.
Kane was placed on long-term injured reserve, opening the door for Bowman to become active in the market before the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline, which comes at 3 p.m. on March 2.
The Blackhawks likely weren't going to be major players at the deadline because of significant salary-cap constraints, but with Kane on LTIR it removes his $6.3 million salary-cap charge from Chicago's books.
Right Wing - CHI
GOALS: 27 | ASST: 37 | PTS: 64
SOG: 186 | +/-: 10
Bowman can use some or all of the cap space available with Kane on LTIR because he will not be medically cleared to return to play before the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The salary cap is turned off in the playoffs, so if the Blackhawks somehow get Kane back this postseason they won't have to worry about cap space in order to activate him.
If Bowman decides to dive into the trade market, he likely would be interested only in a player that has an expiring contract because the Blackhawks have more cap constraints going into next season, when Kane and captain Jonathan Toews will combine to take up $21 million instead of their current $12.6 million. Also, forward Brandon Saad can become a restricted free agent this summer and would need a new contract.
Options include forwards Antoine Vermette of the Arizona Coyotes, Chris Stewart of the Buffalo Sabres and Jaromir Jagr of the New Jersey Devils; if Bowman looks to add depth on defense, options include Jeff Petry of the Edmonton Oilers, Arizona's Zbynek Michalek and New Jersey's Marek Zidlicky.
Chicago could use some help on defense for the stretch run considering Johnny Oduya is expected to be out of the lineup for a couple of weeks, according to Quenneville. Rookie defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk is working his way back from a fractured kneecap and was sent to Rockford on Wednesday.
There's no denying the significance of Kane's loss to the Blackhawks. But Chicago is one of the few teams with the depth to replace a player as important as Kane.
Now Bowman might be able to participate when he otherwise likely would have been on the sidelines with the trade deadline looming.