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When we last met here at Blackhawks Beat, I encouraged GM Kyle Davidson and his front office not to fall in love with draft picks. Yes, the Hawks are in year one of a rebuild, and draft capital, especially in the upcoming 2023 draft, is incredibly valuable. That said, this team will need some veteran presence to lead this next generation of Chicago Blackhawks hockey. With that in mind, I’m going to trade piece by trade piece and discuss what I think is a worthy return.
Lafferty’s name has popped up as a trade target for contenders over the last few weeks.
While Lafferty isn’t the kind of player who is going to become a superstar or really damage your roster by leaving, he provides everything a rebuilding team wants. He’s fast; he’s versatile; he’s physical, and plays with character. The only issue with his game is his lack of scoring ability, though he does have six points over his last eight games and 19 points overall. There is room for offensive growth. With his wheels and compete level, he could turn into a 40-50 point player in short order. He’s already on pace for 35 points this season. I’m setting my minimum to a second-round pick primarily because any team trading for him would be a team in contention, and their pick would likely fall into the bottom of the second round. This is where Davidson could get creative with “conditions.”
MINIMUM ACCEPTABLE RETURN: 2023 second-round pick
POTENTIAL SUITORS: Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins
More than Jonathan Toews …more than Patrick Kane. I think Jake McCabe has the most trade value of any Blackhawk. The combination of his defensive ability, recently blossoming offensive growth, leadership qualities, palatable contract, and all-around badassery makes McCabe desirable for any NHL contender. He’s a +4 on a team that’s a collective -61. That speaks for itself.
I flat-out do not want the Blackhawks to trade McCabe. At the same time, I don’t believe in the word “untouchable.” If a team wants to give Davidson a first-round pick for McCabe, I’d at least hear them out. No conditions. No, “it becomes a first if he leads the team to a Cup” or anything like that. The conversation begins with a 2023 first-round pick, and even that might not be enough. The Blackhawks should be in no hurry to move McCabe, but if a team is going to get stupid, let them.
Keep an eye on the rumored and potentially imminent Jakob Chychrun trade. McCabe could be a good backup plan if things fall apart between the Kings and Coyotes. If the trade goes through, it will set the market for defensemen at the deadline.
MINIMUM ACCEPTABLE RETURN: 2023 first-round pick
POTENTIAL SUITORS: Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings
Murphy’s name has been conspicuously absent from the trade rumors this season. Like McCabe, he’s reliable defensively. Like McCabe, he has a very reasonable contract, but he’s not been on the rumor radar for whatever reason. Davidson has been pretty good about playing his cards close to his vest during his short tenure, so we can only guess what conversations are being had behind closed doors.
Murphy does have a history of back issues, which could be a deterrent for some teams, but any contender looking to solidify their defense at a reasonable price could find a steal in Murphy. If the Hawks move him, they’d likely land a second or third-round pick. This could be a situation in which Davidson could also look to bring a prospect back.
MINIMUM ACCEPTABLE RETURN: 2023 third-round pick, plus
POTENTIAL SUITORS: Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings
Domi signed his one-year deal with the Blackhawks for two reasons. One, he wanted to play for Luke Richardson. Two, he wanted a chance to hold a permanent top-six role and show that he could still score at a high level to get a better contract this summer.
The Blackhawks signed Domi for two reasons. They needed someone to put the puck in the net, and they needed someone they could easily trade to a contender at the deadline.
Recently, Domi has talked about his desire to stay in Chicago long-term, and while I don’t think the Blackhawks hate the idea, they brought him here to move him. I’d imagine Davidson has the price set in his head. For me, it’s a third-round pick in this year’s draft. With Domi headed to unrestricted free agency this summer, the Blackhawks could easily opt to bring him back should both parties desire a reunion. I’d welcome it.
MINIMUM ACCEPTABLE RETURN: 2023 third-round pick
POTENTIAL SUITORS: Vegas Golden Knights, Dallas Stars, Toronto Maple Leafs, Carolina Hurricanes, Edmonton Oilers, New Jersey Devils, Winnipeg Jets
Much like Domi, Athanasiou was brought to Chicago to be traded. He’s everything we thought he would be this year and maybe a little more. He’s very fast. He can make dazzling plays. He also struggles with consistency and will sometimes skate faster than his hands can move. He’s an imperfect player who could bring depth scoring to a contender.
MINIMUM ACCEPTABLE RETURN: Fourth-round pick
POTENTIAL SUITORS: Teams that miss out on top trade targets
Jonathan Toews & Patrick Kane
I don’t think I need to tell you why NHL teams might want Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane on their team. Toews brings the leadership, the experience, the faceoff dominance, the clutch factor, and the ability to have big moments in big games. Kane has the silky mitts, the vision, the ability to make something out of nothing, and like Toews, the huge goals in the biggest moments. The only issue is that we have no idea whether or not either player wants to be traded.
This is an interesting conundrum for Davidson. Let’s just assume (which can be dangerous) that both Kane and Toews tell Davidson they’re willing to be traded. He’s not going to give away either player. At last year’s deadline, he clearly set a “minimum acceptable return” on many of his pieces, including Dylan Strome, Calvin de Haan, and Dominik Kubalik. Those returns weren’t met. As a result, none of them were traded. And as a result of that, all three walked away, leaving the Blackhawks with nothing. Can Davidson let that happen with these two legends? It will be much tougher to sell to the fans, but the Chicago GM hasn’t shied away from unpopular decisions so far.
MINIMUM ACCEPTABLE RETURN FOR KANE: 2023 first-round pick, plus a second-round pick or one of the trading team’s top 5 prospects
POTENTIAL SUITORS: Dallas Stars, Vegas Golden Knights, Carolina Hurricanes, Edmonton Oilers, Colorado Avalanche
MINIMUM ACCEPTABLE RETURN FOR TOEWS: 2023 second-round pick, plus one of the trading team’s B-level prospects
POTENTIAL SUITORS: Colorado Avalanche, Winnipeg Jets, Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals
The Week Ahead
Tuesday, February 14 @ Montréal Canadiens
6:00 pm on NBC Sports Chicago & WGN Radio
Montréal is near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, and while they’re not quite in the “tank standings” just yet, losing young star Cole Caufield for the season doesn’t help.
Call this the “Kirby Dach Revenge Game Revenge Game.” When the two clubs met back in November, Dach’s shootout goal won the game for the Habs. The former Chicago first-round pick has experienced a very solid season in Montréal. Whether or not the Blackhawks live to regret that trade (that brought them Frank Nazar and Gavin Hayes in the draft) remains to be seen, but it’s good to see Dach start his career in Montreal so well.
Wednesday, November 15 @ Toronto Maple Leafs
6:00 pm on TNT & WGN Radio
This one could get really, really ugly. Domi and Kane, who lead the Blackhawks with 35 points each, wouldn’t crack the Leafs’ top five scorers. Mitchell Marner, William Nylander, and Auston Matthews are all point-per-game or better scorers. John Tavares has 53 points in 54 games. This team can flat-out score and is a Cup contender and, depending on what they do at the deadline, a potential Cup favorite.
Matthews has been dealing with a knee injury and may miss Wednesday’s game vs. the Blackhawks.
Friday, February 17 @ Ottawa Senators
6:00 pm on NBC Sports Chicago & WGN Radio
Old friend alert! Alex DeBrincat is having a nice season with the Ottawa Senators, but why hasn’t he signed a new deal yet? On the latest episode of the 32 Thoughts Podcast, Elliotte Friedman speculated that DeBrincat might be waiting to see what Ottawa’s new ownership group will look like and what their plan for the team’s short-term future will be. The Sens have fallen way short of expectations this season, and while they do have some young talent to complement DeBrincat, named Tim Stützle and Jake Sanderson, it remains to be seen whether or not the Cat will want back in Ottawa. DeBrincat will be a restricted free agent this summer. If the Sens get signals that he may not re-sign, could they look to move him at the deadline?
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