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4 takeaways from Patrick Kane's decision to sign with the Red Wings

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And the winner of the Patrick Kane sweepstakes is: Detroit.

Kane, 35, reportedly agreed to a one-year, $2.75-million deal with the 11-6-3 Red Wings on Tuesday, after many others - including the Maple Leafs, Sabres, Stars, and Bruins - expressed interest in acquiring the unrestricted free agent. Kane appears ready to return to NHL action after spending six months recovering from hip surgery.

Here are four takeaways from the Wings' big splash.

Flexibility and familiarity wins

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With at least a handful of teams lining up to speak with Kane, the forward essentially had his pick of the scenario he felt most comfortable with.

Most money? Most years? Best usage/deployment? Best chance to win?

Above all else, Detroit offered flexibility and familiarity.

Prior to the signing, the Wings had an open spot on their 23-man roster and roughly $5 million in cap space. This flexibility allowed general manager Steve Yzerman to add a player of Kane's caliber without subtracting from the group.

Now coach Derek Lalonde can insert a top-six winger into a lineup that's produced the third-most points in the Atlantic Division. Kane, meanwhile, joins a group hungry to snap a seven-year playoff drought.

The familiarity component is twofold: First, Kane knows the Michigan area well after suiting up for the U.S. National Team Development Program for two seasons in the mid-2000s. Second, Kane is reuniting with old linemate and buddy Alex DeBrincat. The pair skated on the same line for a large chunk of DeBrincat's five-year run in Chicago and were highly productive as a tandem. Kane assisted on 72 of 160 goals DeBrincat scored with the Blackhawks.

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DeBrincat was traded to Detroit from Ottawa in July and immediately signed a four-year, $31.5-million extension. The sharpshooting winger leads the Wings with 12 goals in 20 games. He's played the majority of his five-on-five shifts with center Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond (though he did spend Sunday's 4-1 win over Minnesota alongside center J.T. Compher and Michael Rasmussen).

Lalonde will presumably prefer that Kane isn't matched up against the opposition's best defenders to start his tenure, so if DeBrincat and Kane indeed play together, Compher should be their center. He's capable of acting as the second line's defensive conscience, allowing Larkin to drive Detroit's attack on the top line with Raymond.

Bounce-back year not guaranteed

This is a low-risk move for the Wings because it's for one year, the cap hit is fine, and it didn't necessitate another transaction, as noted above.

On the other hand, there's some mystery here: This signing could end up a dud because Kane is coming off hip resurfacing surgery. None of the NHLers who previously underwent the same procedure - Nicklas Backstrom, Ryan Kesler, Ed Jovanovski - looked the same upon returning. Financially, there's little downside because Kane's deal can be transferred to long-term injury reserve if it doesn't work out.

Both things - low-risk move, dud possibility - can be true at the same time.

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Kane, a three-time Stanley Cup champion, is one of the most decorated players in NHL history. He's a future first-ballot Hockey Hall of Famer with plenty of individual hardware, notably Conn Smythe and Hart Trophies. He's accumulated an incredible 1,237 points in 1,180 games.

He also turned 35 earlier in November and is coming off the least productive season of his career - 57 points in 73 games split between the Blackhawks and Rangers. Will Kane, fixed hip and all, return to his 2021-22 form of 92 points in 78 games? Or have his skills truly diminished over time?

Kane's always been an elite stickhandler and passer, and his vision is off the charts, but he's never been a particularly reliable defensive player. If he isn't putting up points, whether at even strength or on the power play, he isn't useful. Again, while the risk is low, this isn't a guaranteed home run.

Tantalizing best-case scenario

Kane's career earnings are north of $115 million. Money's always a factor, but it's not the only one this late in his career. Winning was clearly a priority.

I don't see the Wings as a Cup contender, but they certainly look like a playoff-caliber team through the season's first quarter. Maybe that's enough for Kane, who's seen a handful of lower seeds go on deep runs during his career. Or maybe he believes Detroit's being slept on as a contender - and that he can be Lalonde's missing piece.

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The signing's best-case scenario is, in a word, tantalizing.

If Kane experiences no hip issues, if he hits it off with DeBrincat again, if the Wings keep progressing ... the fit could be tremendous.

Detroit may rank fourth in the NHL in goals per game right now, but the roster needed an upgrade at top-six wing, and Kane's playmaking style fills a specific void.

While the Wings rank ninth in the league on the power play, there's room for Kane on a top unit currently featuring Larkin, Compher, Raymond, David Perron, and Shayne Gostisbehere. Kane's all-world vision, passing ability, and years of experience should find a home on the right flank.

The Wings have an 8-13 record in overtime/shootout games over the past two seasons. Kane can help with that: He's masterful in OT and has the second-most shootout goals in the league since debuting in 2007-08.

Bonus: He's always been clutch in the playoffs.

Perhaps most crucially given his age, Kane can hide a little bit. Detroit's top three centers - Larkin, Compher, and Andrew Copp - are all capable of shouldering a heavier defensive load when Kane's on the wing. That means he can go out and create.

Another stage of the 'Yzerplan'

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Yzerman, a Wings franchise icon and the GM since April 2019, took a slow and steady approach to the first few years of his tenure. He refused to rush any part of the rebuilding process.

Then, in the 2022 offseason, Yzerman added veterans, including Perron, Copp, and goalie Ville Husso. He took his foot off the gas ahead of the 2023 trade deadline - opting to sell instead of buy - before adding another group of vets this past offseason: DeBrincat, Compher, Gostisbehere, and others.

Pursuing and ultimately landing Kane was a natural next step. If you're a Wings fan, the best part is Yzerman still has a few million dollars left for midseason deals, assuming Detroit doesn't tumble down the standings over the next couple of months.

The first person I thought about when I heard Kane was off to Detroit was Larkin; the captain and Michigan native must be thrilled. The only time Larkin, a 2014 first-rounder, has appeared in the playoffs was 2015-16 - his rookie season and the final leg of Detroit's 25-year postseason streak.

There've been many lean years since, but now the Wings are off to a terrific start, and the short-term future projects to be much brighter if Kane's effective.

John Matisz is theScore's senior NHL writer. Follow John on Twitter/X (@MatiszJohn) or contact him via email (john.matisz@thescore.com).

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