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Kevin Weekes: Panthers ‘Frontrunners’ to Sign Patrick Kane

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Patrick Kane, a three-time Stanley Cup champion with the Chicago Blackhawks, is a free agent after having hip resurfacing surgery over the summer. // AP File Photo

Future Hall of Fame forward Patrick Kane has made it known he wanted to sign with a new team following Thanksgiving and it looks like the Florida Panthers are still in the thick of the race.

On Wednesday, NHL Insider Kevin Weekes said on NHL Network that the Panthers were the leader in the race to sign the three-time Stanley Cup champion.

“As of today,’’ Weekes said, “and this is always subject to change, but as of right now, these guys are the frontrunners to acquire Patrick Kane.”

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Kane, who turned 35 this past Sunday, had hip resurfacing surgery on July 1.

Although Kane has been skating and working out in the Toronto area, he would probably need some time to work into game shape.

In August, he told the AP he had already been on the ice “about 20 times” and was getting close to a return.

“It’s just exciting to see progression and just feeling better on the ice,” Kane said then. “Kind of getting back to my old self, so it’s pretty exciting.”

The Panthers, meanwhile, continue to be up against the salary cap and does not have a whole lot of money to give to Kane.

What does Florida have to offer?

“Well, let’s see: The team is good, it is a sweet place to live, no state income tax,” said Weekes, who was drafted by the Panthers in their inaugural draft in 1993 and played in Florida during the 1997-98 season.

“Your body is going to feel nice in that weather in the Sunshine State especially being an older player coming off an injury. But fit is a factor. What will his role be? He doesn’t want to be a side contributor; he wants to be a big part of things, right? The style of play … they play an up-tempo game and have skill players who play up tempo. This team has as good a shot as any to come out of the East. They just went to the Cup Final last year. Oh, and you have Matthew Tkachuk there.”

Kane, the No. 1 pick of the 2007 draft, spent the entirety of his career with the Blackhawks before being traded to the Rangers at last season’s deadline.

Playing with a deteriorating hip, Kane scored 21 goals in 73 games with Chicago and New York.

Kane has played in 1,180 career regular season games, scoring 451 goals and 1,237 points.

In 143 playoff games, Kane has 53 goals and 138 points.

If he were to land with the Panthers, Florida could play him in a number of places — including the right side of the third line with Anton Lundell and Eetu Luostarinen.

Kane would probably also slot into Florida’s top power play unit.

To fit Kane under the salary cap, the Panthers will likely place defenseman Mike Reilly on waivers and loan him to AHL Charlotte.

Uvis Balinskis is waiver exempt and could also be headed to Charlotte once Josh Mahura is healthy enough to come off of IR.

PANTHERS ON DECK

WINNIPEG JETS @ FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Friday, 8 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
  • Radio: WAXY 790-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL App
  • This season — Winnipeg Leads 1-0: @Winnipeg 6, Florida 4 (Oct. 14); Friday @ Florida
  • Last season: Winnipeg won 2-0
  • All-time regular season series: Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets lead 53-31-8, 5 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Monday at Ottawa, 7 p.m.

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