The NHL trade deadline is on March 21, and teams around the league are evaluating their positions. The Chicago Blackhawks look to be sellers at the deadline. They are second-worst in the Central Division above the Arizona Coyotes, 15 points out of the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference with a 19-26-8 record. A lot can change in a month, but right now, it would be safe to assume they’ll be sellers. In that case, it’s easy to point out two tradeable assets from the Blackhawks that have made headlines in recent weeks: Marc-Andre Fleury and Brandon Hagel. However, I want to focus on another dark horse that the Blackhawks may part ways with: Ryan Carpenter. Here are three reasons why a Carpenter trade would be beneficial.
1. Carpenter’s Position Is Currently Redundant
Carpenter was a free agent signing by the Blackhawks in July 2019. He signed with a clear, bottom-six center role in mind. Before signing with Chicago, he made it to the Stanley Cup Final with the Vegas Golden Knights in 2018. During his entire career thus far, he has been recognized for being a reliable forward that plays a defensive role and can help on the penalty kill. He doesn’t give much offense as his 82-game goal average is eight, but that’s okay because his strengths rely on the defensive side of the game. When he signed in 2019, the Blackhawks’ expectations as a team were to be competitive. With that came a need to fix their penalty kill, which was dead last in the league at the time, and he is known for his positive influence on the penalty kill.
Unfortunately, the Hawks improved in some aspects, but they haven’t been competitive during Carpenter’s tenure. His strengths are suited for a team with championship ideations because those teams already have players that fit most needs like scoring and goaltending, yet, championship teams can never have enough shutdown defensive players like him. The Blackhawks haven’t been able to fully utilize his strengths because they struggle in so many areas that playoff teams do not. They struggle on offense, special teams, and defense. In my opinion, Carpenter’s role has been wasted in Chicago because of the team’s other glaring needs. Therefore, the shutdown role doesn’t do much for them at the moment, making his position redundant.
2. Carpenter May Attract a Decent Trade Return
When you picture the trade deadline, you may instantly think of the flashy players who give teams the best returns, such as Taylor Hall or Phil Kessel. You may not be thinking a player like Carpenter could garner much of a return, but that isn’t the case at all. He averages 19 points a season, but there is a reason why players like Patrick Maroon (Tampa Bay Lightning), Brian Boyle (Pittsburgh Penguins), and Blake Coleman (Calgary Flames) are sought after every trade deadline. They bring skills that are invaluable to a team come playoff time. Every team needs a reliable shutdown forward who can do the little things well and provide depth. Carpenter is good on the forecheck, brings physicality, grit, and a boost to special teams. Teams become desperate for players like him at the deadline because they bring security.
This season with the Blackhawks, Carpenter has two goals, six assists, and eight points in 49 games, with a 52 FO% (Faceoff Percentage). He is the fifth-best on the team in faceoffs and is second-best in hits with 104. He averages 12 minutes of ice time a night and makes the most of it as a big presence on the Hawks’ penalty kill and some time on the power play as well. I believe that some teams may be willing to offer something substantial for him. I don’t think something like a third-round pick or a prospect would be off the table when it comes to him. If a team is desperate enough, they may be willing to overpay, even. Some teams that come to mind that may want his services are the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, and the St. Louis Blues.
The other aspect that may influence a Carpenter trade comes from his contract. He is on the last year of his three-year contract with a $1 million AAV. It’s a very attractive salary cap hit, which may make teams more willing to trade for him.
3. Blackhawks’ Rebuild Forces Carpenter Out
Because the Blackhawks are going through a rebuild, I think Carpenter will get pushed out of the lineup. When looking at Chicago’s pipeline and their current roster, they have a lot of bottom-six players that are established or may be making their way to the team. Philipp Kurashev, Kirby Dach, Henrik Borgstrom, Sam Lafferty, MacKenzie Entwistle, and Carpenter have spent the majority of their time in the bottom-six. Jujhar Khaira and Reese Johnson are currently injured. It is unclear when they will return to the lineup. Whenever they do, that could push Carpenter out of the lineup. He was a healthy scratch back in October, which comes to show all of the shufflings that the Blackhawks’ coaches have tried to make in the bottom-six.
Carpenter is solid in his role, but they currently have too many players that play a similar style. At 31 years old, he is the most established player on the bottom-six, but Chicago is likely to want to shift their focus to players that they see growing within their rebuild. They also continue to call up center Josiah Slavin from the Hawks’ affiliate team, the Rockford Icehogs. It signals that they will probably focus on players like Slavin, Lafferty, Kurashev, and Borgstrom to fill Carpenter’s shoes.
Overall, trading Carpenter would be fair to him and the Blackhawks. He is in the last year of his contract, and I don’t believe he is in the club’s plans past 2021-22. He brings a necessary skill set to the bottom-six and on the penalty kill that would benefit any team, especially a playoff team. The Blackhawks can’t productively utilize his play anymore, so it may be beneficial to give him to a team that can. It’s a win-win because he could get a fresh start while Chicago can get some pieces for him to aid their rebuild.
Just a small town girl with Midwestern charm; combined with a love of dogs, writing, frappuccinos, Chicago-isms, sports, and a whole lot of Blackhawks hockey. Twitter: @brooke_lofo.