Patrick Kane, who will make his New York Rangers debut Thursday against the Ottawa Senators, said he hasn't been this nervous about a regular-season game in a very long time.
After 1,161 games with the Chicago Blackhawks, Kane is playing for another franchise for the first time after an NHL trade deadline deal.
Kane, 34, waived his no-movement clause to join the Rangers, leaving a rebuilding team for one poised to make a run at its first Stanley Cup since 1994. But he also left a legacy after 16 years in Chicago, where he helped the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cup victories.
"You definitely go back and forth in your head a bunch of times on what was right," Kane said during an introductory news conference ahead of Thursday's game at Madison Square Garden. "It wasn't the easiest decision, but I'm just really excited to be here. With the amount of skill and good players they have here, it's another chance to make a run."
The Rangers acquired Kane as part of a three-team deal Monday, giving up three draft picks and defenseman Andy Welinski. Kane, a right wing, has 45 points in 54 games this season, including 16 goals. He's an unrestricted free agent after this season and said he hasn't yet considered whether the Rangers would extend his contract.
The trade ended days of speculation that Kane would waive his no-movement clause to facilitate a deal to the Rangers, while New York made the necessary salary cap moves.
"The team's been waiting for it, like us all," Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. "You're hoping, you're not sure what's going to happen. It seems like a long wait, even though it hasn't been."
Kane said he wasn't sure of the timeframe for his decision to waive his no-movement clause and join the Rangers, but that there were "little steps" along the way that led to it. He noted the Blackhawks were in a rebuild, but that he still had a decision to make to leave his comfort zone.
There was a moment when Kane expressed disappointment that a trade to the Rangers might not materialize: when New York traded for Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 9 to fill their need on right wing.
At the time, Kane said he was "not the happiest" to see that move made, knowing that the Rangers had been engaged in talks to acquire him from Chicago.
"I think sometimes comments get overblown a little bit," Kane said Thursday. "I wasn't extremely mad about the situation when they made the move for Tarasenko. It just didn't seem like it was in the cards [for a trade] to still be an option."
Kane then smiled.
"Now, I'm obviously very happy they made that move," he said.
Tarasenko will play on a line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, while Kane will line up with center Vincent Trocheck and an old friend -- left wing Artemi Panarin, who skated with Kane in Chicago from 2015 to 2017.
"Today's the first time I've seen him in a long time," Kane said. "He's a fun guy to be around. I definitely missed that for the last six years. We picked up right where we left off. Hopefully it's the same on the ice.
"It might not be as smooth as everyone thinks it's going to go. There might be some bumps in the road, but hopefully in due time we can figure it out."
Gallant said having Panarin on the roster will help with Kane's comfort level as a Ranger.
"It's all new to him. He's been a Chicago Blackhawk his whole career," Gallant said. "I'm sure he's going to be real nervous playing with new teammates. Fortunately, [Panarin] is here to help to him. It's nice when you've got people you know here a little bit."
Kane said he looks forward to rekindling that chemistry and that Panarin was one of the reasons he waived his no-movement clause of the Rangers.
While he reunites with an old Blackhawks teammate, Kane had to say goodbye to another one in captain Jonathan Toews. They both debuted in 2007-08 and led Chicago to a cap-era dynasty. Toews stepped away from the Blackhawks on Feb. 20 because of symptoms of long COVID-19 and chronic immune response syndrome.
"We've played together for so many years," Kane said. "It won't feel as normal as it usually does. It was a great run. It's going to be weird not being around him."
Kane is part of the MSG family now; New York Knicks star Jalen Brunson wore a Kane jersey to Wednesday's game against the Brooklyn Nets. Brunson lived outside of Chicago during the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup wins and said Kane is "just a legend" to him.
Kane said he bumped into Brunson at the Rangers' practice facility, which they share with the Knicks, on Wednesday. Kane also FaceTimed with Brunson's father and said he'd love to attend a Knicks game to support him.
"The energy in the city and throughout the organization is pretty high right now," Kane said. "It's great to be a part of that."
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