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Connor Bedard could use more help ... Here are a few options that make sense

Jay Zawaski Avatar
October 24, 2023

Good morning, Hawks fans.

Welcome to another edition of my weekly Blackhawks Beat. Each Tuesday, I share my thoughts on the Blackhawks topic that’s taken up most of my head space over the week. These first few are unlocked to everyone, then we’ll make them a Diehard-only perk, similar to Adam Hoge’s “Bears Things” newsletter.

Want to make sure you get them all year? You can become a Diehard today and not only get all my newsletters, but access to Mario and Greg’s weekly “Rebuild Report” and a free Hawks-inspired t-shirt as well!

We’re six games into the Blackhawks’ season and Connor Bedard’s NHL career. The young center has two goals and two assists in those games, and despite not filling the net with goals just yet, he’s been one of the best Blackhawks players. Maybe the best. The now-injured Taylor Hall, Ryan Donato and Taylor Raddysh have been his most consistent linemates so far.

Are they enough, or is it time for GM Kyle Davidson to bring in some scoring help for Bedard?

When the Blackhawks won the draft lottery, Davidson made it clear the Hawks wouldn’t stray from the rebuild plan.

“The rebuild was never based on first overall,” Davidson told CHGO. “We have to build a team. You look at any Cup team … it’s not just one guy. They all rise and play important roles in important moments. It’s never one person. (Getting Bedard) is just a bonus. That’s all it is. It doesn’t change the path. It doesn’t change what we’re doing.”

I agree with Davidson. They shouldn’t just throw the rebuild to the wind and go sign a bunch of free agents just to get a playoff spot.

However, if there is a player who makes sense for the team in the context of the rebuild, why not use some of the team’s many assets to find some help for Bedard?

Taylor Hall, whom the Hawks traded for this summer, will be one of those players for Bedard this season, but on Monday, coach Luke Richardson called Hall week-to-week with an upper-body injury. Even with Hall, I thought it might be a good idea to bring in some support. Now that he’s out, I really think it’s time as long as the move fits the long-term plan. This should not be a rental situation.

So what options does Davidson have in that regard?

NOTE: It’s important to keep in mind that NHL transactions don’t usually happen until Thanksgiving, thus limiting the Hawks’ options at the time.

Connor Garland – Vancouver Canucks

Vancouver winger Connor Garland has requested a trade from the cap-strapped Canucks. He also hired a new agent right before the season began. Garland wants out, and while a 27-year-old right winger doesn’t seem to make a ton of sense as we look three, four or five years into the future, his presence could help ease the offensive burden for Bedard, while still being an important piece when the Hawks are ready to compete for a playoff spot again.

Garland has three years left (including this season) on his contract and carries a $4.95 million cap hit. Vancouver needs to move this salary and has shown a willingness to eat some of the cap hit in order to make it work. The Hawks could be a tempting trade partner, as they’d likely be willing to eat the entire cap hit, especially if the trade piece going back to Vancouver is a low draft pick, a mid-level prospect, or everyone’s favorite journeyman player, F. Considerations.

In 327 NHL games, Garland has 84 goals and 112 assists. He’s not exactly Pavel Bure in terms of speed, but has some finish to his shot and is a bona fide top-six winger.

Shane Pinto – Ottawa Senators

This would be a dream scenario for the Blackhawks but is also the least likely. Pinto, 22, is a center and a restricted free agent. While he wouldn’t play on a line with Bedard, it would free up Lukas Reichel to move to Bedard’s line, should the Hawks decide the Reichel-at-center experiment is over.

The only reason Ottawa hasn’t re-signed Pinto is because of their cap situation. They certainly want him back, and are trying to make it work. If the Blackhawks, or any team, is going to pry Pinto away from Ottawa, it’s going to take a king’s ransom.

Would Davidson be willing to part with the latter of his first-round picks in the 2023 Draft? Would that be enough for Ottawa?

Probably not, however, the Hawks could look to help Ottawa get some cap space with a different trade, but that would be down the road.

Find a team loaded with forward prospects or NHL defensive issues

The Blackhawks have a glut of defensive prospects. Aside from current Blackhawks Kevin Korchinski (untouchable), Alex Vlasic (close to untouchable) and Wyatt Kaiser, the likes of Ethan Del Mastro, Isaak Phillips, Nolan Allan are working their way to the NHL via Rockford. Sam Rinzel and Taige Harding are on the radar, as well, but are still years away.

The Blackhawks have defensemen to move.

Toronto has cap issues and needs help on defense. None of the “in-the-system” prospects will appeal to the Leafs right now, as they’re looking to win a Cup…not develop a kid. The Hawks could move a veteran defenseman, like Connor Murphy, but that doesn’t solve the Leafs’ cap issues.

Buffalo is short on the defensive end, but seek a right-handed shot player, and like Toronto, Buffalo is in win now…or at least win soon…mode. The Hawks’ defensive prospects close to NHL time are all left-handed shots.

Sign Phil Kessel

This is just a nod to Mario Tirabassi, who’s been stumping for Kessel for a couple of years now. I mean, I wouldn’t be mad about it, but I’m not sure how much it actually helps.

This is the dilemma. Teams with cap issues are trying to win now, so a defensive prospect doesn’t help. Teams in situations like the Blackhawks, with young talent building towards their next generation, aren’t looking to deal.

If I’m Kyle Davidson, I’m making calls to Vancouver about Garland. It makes sense for both teams, and the Hawks have an advantage in that they can accommodate all of Garland’s cap hit. Removing that $4.95 million helps them out big time, and they could make him available to the Hawks for very little in return. Plus, you’d have to assume that Garland would be very excited about the opportunity to hop over the boards with Connor Bedard and Taylor Hall this season.

Chicago Blackhawks Upcoming Schedule

Tuesday – vs Boston Bruins

This will be the first “normal” game the Blackhawks will play this season. It’s not a home opener. It’s not a centennial celebration. It’s just a game, and I think the Hawks are very much looking forward to a normal game.

The Bruins, who beat the Hawks 3-1 in Boston on October 11, is 5-0 on the season. David Pastrnak (5 G, 3 A) and Brad Marchand (4 G, 3 A) lead the team in scoring, while the goaltending tandem of Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman have been absolutely lights out. It’s another big challenge in a season full of nothing but big challenges so far.

Friday – at Vegas Golden Knights

Holy crap the Golden Knights are steamrolling the league. Not only are they (also) undefeated, they have outscored their opponents 25-11 in their six games. They have a bigger goal differential than goals allowed. The Knights have six players averaging a point per game, including leading scorer Chandler Stephenson and William Karlsson (aka Great Value William Nylander).

Speaking of Friday, we’re hosting a watch party, presented by our friends at Goose Island, at Legends Grill and Bar, located at 9710 191st St. in Mokena. The puck drops at 5 pm, and we’ll host a postgame afterward. Come hang out!

Monday – at Arizona Coyotes

Oh, the Hawks are allowed to play a team with a loss? Who knew?

I’m really looking forward to this game. The Coyotes are 3-2 to start the season, and have a much better roster than they did last season. In addition to rookie phenom Logan Cooley, Arizona added Matt Dumba, Sean Durzi, Nick Bjugstad, and Jason Zucker.

Keep a close eye on Cooley, though. He will be one of Bedard’s top challengers for the Calder Trophy.

We’ll be back here next Tuesday. See you then.

Jay Zawaski

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