The Chicago Blackhawks have been one of the busiest teams in the league this offseason. This was to be expected, as general manager (GM) Kyle Davidson announced the team’s plans to rebuild. When looking at his moves this summer, it’s clear that he has made some notable mistakes along the way. Let’s take a look at a handful and why they already appear to be bad moves.
Davidson Failed With Alex DeBrincat Trade
Once Davidson announced that the Blackhawks were officially rebuilding, Alex DeBrincat became the team’s top trade target. The 24-year-old winger just scored 41 goals and recorded 78 points in 82 games for Chicago in 2021-22, so his trade value was expected to be very high. Yet, the return that the Blackhawks received from the Ottawa Senators was simply not enough. Although it was great that they received this year’s seventh overall pick from the Senators, the rest of the trade package was underwhelming. He should have gotten more than just this year’s 39th overall pick and a 2024 third-round pick along with it.
DeBrincat has emerged as one of the NHL’s top snipers and is still young enough to fit well into Chicago’s rebuild. As a result, Davidson should have demanded more for the star winger or simply waited for a better deal during the regular season. Along with the seventh overall pick, the Blackhawks were in a position where they should have landed at least one top prospect or another first-round pick. That is where this move should be viewed as his biggest mistake of the offseason.
The Blackhawks were in a position where they could have made a bigger impact on their rebuild if they received the right return for DeBrincat. We will have to see how the draft picks from this trade, Kevin Korchinski and Paul Ludwinski, develop from here. Though, even if they both turn into high-impact players for the Blackhawks, this trade already looks like a bad one because Davidson could have gotten more for a star like DeBrincat.
Davidson Let Dylan Strome & Dominik Kubalik Leave for Nothing
Although the Blackhawks are rebuilding, they let two potential trade candidates walk for nothing in Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik. Both players were restricted free agents (RFA), but Davidson elected not to send either of them qualifying offers. As a result, Strome is now a member of the Washington Capitals, while Dominik Kubalik inked a two-year pact with the Detroit Red Wings.
Truthfully, Davidson not receiving a single asset back for both Strome and Kubalik is entirely unacceptable. This is especially true when noting that they were each under team control. The Blackhawks had the cap space to sign both of them to their qualifying offers with ease, and this is still the case even after they signed a handful of free agents this summer. Yet, he instead elected to lose them without helping the rebuild in the slightest.
Out of the pair, letting Strome walk was more surprising. After a rough start to the 2021-22 season, he ended the year with a solid 48 points in 69 games due to his excellent second half. Keeping him around would have easily been worth it, and this is especially true if he continued his hot stretch of play in 2022-23. As for Kubalik, he still could have been good to have on the team even after his down season in 2021-22. Although he struggled, teams expressed interest in him before the 2022 Trade Deadline, and he quietly ended the year with six points in his final eight games. Thus, who’s to say that teams wouldn’t have called again if he bounced back this upcoming season? Overall, losing these two players for nothing was the epitome of poor asset management by Davidson.
Davidson Failed to Re-Sign Kevin Lankinen
Davidson’s final mistake was not re-signing Kevin Lankinen. The 27-year-old goaltender ended up signing a one-year deal with the Nashville Predators and will be looking to have a bounce-back campaign with the Blackhawks’ Central Division rival. Although this decision is nowhere near as bad as the two above, it was still a bit frustrating to see.
If Davidson did not plan to re-sign Lankinen, why didn’t he flip him at the deadline? Although the Finnish netminder had a year to forget, the rebuilding Blackhawks should have received some sort of return for the two-year veteran. Yet, when he remained in Chicago for the rest of the season, it seemed likely that an extension could have been on the way. Instead, Lankinen is now going to be a Predator and has a grand opportunity to bounce back with a change of scenery.
When remembering how well Lankinen played as a rookie with the Blackhawks in 2020-21, there’s reason to believe that he could rebound. In 37 games that campaign, he had a 17-14-5 record, 3.01 goals-against average (GAA), and .909 save percentage (SV%). If he can get back to those kinds of numbers, this is another move that Davidson should be heavily criticized for moving forward.
Nevertheless, Davidson has not been perfect this offseason. These three decisions by the 34-year-old GM are not looking very helpful to the Blackhawks’ rebuild, but time will tell how they age. At least he did quite well in the Kirby Dach trade, so his offseason has had some good moments, too.
Michael DeRosa is a contributor who covers the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, & Detroit Red Wings for The Hockey Writers. Since 2017, he’s written and edited for numerous websites. Besides his work for THW, you can also find him on NHL Trade Rumors.