Trade Deadline Primer: Chicago Blackhawks

As we enter mid-March, the deadline for trading is approaching. Where does each team stand and what movements should they be looking to make? We continue our look around the league with the Chicago Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks have been among the most successful teams in recent NHL history. They won three Stanley Cups with their core Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toewsand Duncan Keith, but their most recent win was in 2014-15, and times have gotten leaner since then. Former GM Stan Bowman made a major selling point last season to acquire defenders Seth Jones, but the team has been disappointed, and under the new GM Kyle Davidson, the team looks set to embark on a large-scale rebuild to return to real combat. That reconstruction began today, with the team replacing Brandon Hagel for a large selection of choices and future prospects. With that move made, and Davidson’s issued statement on the trade, it’s clear that major changes are coming to the Blackhawks sooner rather than later.

Record
22-30-9, 7: ai Centralen

Deadline Status
Seller

Deadline Cap Space
$ 2.26MM today, $ 2.26MM in full season space, 1/3 retention seats used, 47/50 contracts used, per CapFriendly.

Upcoming drafts
2022: CHI 1st (get only choice of place # 1 or # 2), CHI 2nd, EDM 3rd, * TOR 3rd, VGK 3rd, CHI 6th, CBJ 6th, CHI 7 : a

2023: CHI 1: a, TBL 1: a, ** CHI 2: a, TBL 2: a, CHI 3: a, CHI 4: a, CHI 5: a, CHI 6: a, CHI 7: a

* If EDM makes it to the Stanley Cup final in 2022 and D Duncan Keith is among the team’s top four in terms of time on ice, CHI will host EDM’s 2nd in 2022

** 2023 TBL 1st is top-10 protected.

Swap chips
Chicago’s latest trade of Brandon Hagel clearly shows that Davidson is serious about the Blackhawks’ rebuilding. Hagel is only 23 years old, productive and the theft of a contract that will cost $ 1.5 million against the ceiling until 2024-25, when he will be a limited free agent. He is the type of player that most teams – even those who rebuild – would like to keep. A player to build around, even. But for Davidson, a redevelopment of burnt land is in place, and his obvious goal is to gather as many choices and opportunities as possible to build the Blackhawks into a powerhouse from the mid to late 2020s. So to be able to do that, it seems like any player on the team’s list is potentially available at the right price. Which means that a “barter” section can be a bit wide open. That said, there are some more likely candidates.

A more likely candidate is a defender Calvin de Haan. De Haan, 30, is a veteran defender on a contract that expires with a ceiling of 4.55 MM. He plays a hockey style that is largely imperceptible, but also praiseworthy steady. He has come in 55 games this year and only scored five points, so teams looking for attack should look elsewhere, but if a team wants a player they can stick to their bottom pair and not have to worry about, they fit Haan the bill there. The cost of a team to acquire him should also be lower than many of the other defenders in the market, although one wonders if the asking price increases due to the acquisition cost that the Florida Panthers paid to acquire Ben Chiarot. But no matter what the previous trade may have done to his market, De Haan represents an attractive trading chip for competing teams that are in need of steady defensive reinforcements but do not want to pay the high prices associated with the other available blueliners.

Another player on the team with a greater probability of being moved is forward Ryan Carpenter. Carpenter is similar to De Haan in that he plays a bland but steady style of hockey, although it may be more of a virtue for a defender than for a forward. Despite that, Carpenter, 31, has created an NHL career of nearly 300 games through his hard work, determination and character. He has not and probably never will cross the 25-point threshold, and he is not an overwhelming defensive or physical presence, but he does play a reliable hockey game that a coach could wish for for his bottom sex. He has 26 games of playoff experience and a coach with a less established bottom six could prefer Carpenter over a less proven, more inexperienced player once the playoff hockey stress comes into play. Like De Haan, Carpenter should not cost much to acquire, and his cap hit is only $ 1MM, so expect him to be one of the more likely Blackhawks to be handed out on Monday.

While Carpenter and De Haan are both assets where an acquiring team knows what they are getting, with a player who Dominik Kubalik, things are much less safe. Chicago is reportedly interested in trading Kubalik, and after the Hagel trade, it really seems more likely. Kubalik, 26, broke into the NHL 2019-20 and scored 30 goals during his first season as a pro in North America. He followed it up with a decent 2020-21, with 17 goals and 38 points in 56 games. But this season, as the Blackhawks team around him has struggled, Kubalik’s production has not improved as many might have expected. Through 61 matches, Kubalik has only 11 goals and 21 points, and his line-ups are more often players who Philipp Kurashev and Henrik Borgström than they are Kane. As an ongoing RFA with arbitration, his situation in Chicago has become more difficult. Can a competing team, or even a team that wants to compete in the near future, take a leap of faith and switch to Kubalik, hoping to regain the points he had in his first two seasons? A source indicated (subscription required) for Mark Lazerus and Scott Powers from The Athletic that the starting price for Kubalik could only be a choice in the second round, so this is the kind of trade that can be a home run if a team does the right thing.

Others to look for: G Marc-Andre FleuryF Patrick Kane, F Dylan Strome

The team’s needs

1) Draft

As previously mentioned, it is clear that Davidson’s vision for this team includes layers of drafts and prospectuses. So, in terms of what the Blackhawks need at this deadline, their top priority should be to fulfill that vision. This means that if there is a reasonable offer that means the Blackhawks receive a favorable amount of draft compensation in return, the law should do so. They do not have a lot of cap space available, but perhaps after moving veterans as expected, Chicago may have enough space to act as a cap space broker as well, to add a few more deep choices.

2) Recycling project

One of the best ways a team can accelerate its rebuilding is by identifying and acquiring struggling players who can develop into quality players in the NHL. As an example of this, Rangers got a top-six center in Ryan Strome as part of their reconstruction, and the Vancouver Canucks earned one point per game by trading for JT Miller, whose production stood still in Tampa Bay. The Blackhawks already have a history of doing this, with former top prospects like Strome on their list, but as more and more NHL ice ages are freed up by rebuilding-oriented business, attempts to find diamonds in the rough should be a goal for Davidson.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

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