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If the Blackhawks are trading Alex DeBrincat, they must go all-in on “Scorched Earth” rebuild

Mario Tirabassi Avatar
June 10, 2022

If you are like me, yesterday was a very odd day. In a combination of reports from The Athletic’s Scott Powers and Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli, it became a little more clear what the rebuilding plan might be for the Blackhawks and what kind of summer the Chicago fanbase will have ahead of them.

Simply put: Scorched Earth.

In Powers’ latest, a collaboration work with Shayna Goldman, he outlines that league sources have told him they believe the Blackhawks will be looking to trade Alex DeBrincat, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane either before the 2022-23 season begins or by this upcoming season’s trade deadline. From Seravalli’s latest, he put out his top trade targets list for the summer ahead of the 2022-23 NHL season and Alex DeBrincat was No. 1 on his list.

Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat, and Patrick Kane are the last three players that the Blackhawks have on their roster of value that also would be reasonably moveable. So while Seth Jones still holds a lot of value, his contract pretty much anchors him in Chicago for a while.

Say what you will, but Powers is one of the most plugged-in Blackhawks reporters around and Seravalli was the first and most adamant of the national insiders to say that Brandon Hagel was not only on the trade block last season, but that he would be moved at some point. He also puts it bluntly that, in his eyes, it’s not a matter of “if” the Blackhawks trade DeBrincat, but “when.” So take these reports for what you will, but I’m putting weight behind them.

Blackhawks General Manager Kyle Davidson, as we have said numerous times on CHGO Blackhawks outlets, is on Stan Bowman clean-up duty to begin his tenure as GM in Chicago. The rebuild plan that he and the front office are moving forward with is starting to become a bit more clear and it appears he has intentions of maximizing any and all player values. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman recently said on the June 6 edition of the ’32 Thoughts Podcast,’ that Chicago was listening to offers on any players without no-movement clauses on their contracts. So while Seth Jones, Toews, and Kane fall into that category, that’s not to say a team couldn’t approach the Blackhawks about any or all of those players with an offer.

With all of this said, trading a combination of Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat, or Patrick Kane, or all of them in the next calendar year will be a tough pill to swallow for the Chicago fanbase. These are three cornerstone players to the franchise, two from the ‘One Goal’ era and another that, up until now, was assumed to be the future of the organization. To trade all of them means to head straight for rock-bottom in the NHL. It’s a path that fans of this team have not had to experience in nearly 15 years.

All three players have expiring contracts at the end of the 2022-23 season, with Toews and Kane being unrestricted free agents and DeBrincat being a restricted free agent with a $9M qualifying offer due to him next offseason. As Powers reported from his sources, the Blackhawks would be willing to retain half of both Toews and Kane’s cap hits ($10.5M) in potential deals, whether they were to be this summer or at some point during next season prior to the NHL Trade Deadline.

A trade for Jonathan Toews wouldn’t get the return it may have two seasons ago, but if a team were interested in a $5.25M-version of Toews, Chicago could get something better than a late-round pick for him. Kane and DeBrincat on the other hand are the two biggest trade chips that Davidson holds right now. If Chicago is trading Patrick Kane, also at $5.25M, you would imagine that the deal would involve a handful of top-end future assets like draft picks and/or upper-tier prospects. Even if just for one season of Kane.

Chicago’s biggest return is coming from an Alex DeBrincat trade. You don’t find 40-goal scorers in their mid-20’s just anywhere in the NHL. That’s pretty much the reasoning behind wanting to keep DeBrincat in Chicago, though. We’ve seen that the Blackhawks can be bad while still having a player like DeBrincat on the roster. But if Davidson and Company plan to build the Blackhawks from the bottom of the bottom all the way back up, moving DeBrincat gives you the most return of future assets.

Recently, the New Jersey Devils have been thrown around as a potential team the Blackhawks could work with on a DeBrincat trade. The Devils hold the No. 2 pick in this summer’s NHL Draft and have a number of promising young players that would becom e the top player(s) in Chicago’s farm system right away. If the Devils want DeBrincat, in my eyes, it’ll at least cost them the No. 2 pick this year, their 2023 first-round pick, and one of Dawson Mercer or Alexander Holtz. Any other team looking to make a DeBrincat trade will have to meet the same standards of at least three first-round caliber picks and/or prospects.

For Chicago to go this route, the route of “Scorched Earth,” they cannot be one-foot in the door and one-foot out. The organization will need to be all-in on the moves and present the fanbase a clear rebuilding plan ahead. Kyle Davidson seems smart enough to know this and seems committed to a true rebuilding plan, unlike Bowman before him.

It’ll be painful to see these three players go, if that is the case. It’ll be painful to see the Blackhawks not be competitive for years to come. But there are fun parts of rebuilds when it comes to seeing the next generation of young players turn into superstars and the pay-off at the end of the rebuild, if the organization navigates it correctly, could result in the Blackhawks playing hockey at this time of the year and contending for Stanley Cups. Plural.

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