The Chicago Blackhawks are expected to be one of the busiest teams this offseason. General manager (GM) Kyle Davidson has made it clear that the club is rebuilding and more moves should be on the way. However, although this is the current state of the team, that doesn’t automatically mean that they will be quiet during free agency. When it comes to the right-wing position specifically, there are a few intriguing options that Davidson could end up pursuing. Let’s now take a look at some of these wingers.
Ilya Mikheyev is a player who the Blackhawks should consider signing this summer. After recording a 17-point campaign in 54 games last season, he improved immensely during the 2021-22 campaign. In 53 games on the season, he scored a career-high 21 goals and recorded 11 assists. Now, heading into this offseason, he is expected to land himself a pretty nice contract because of it. Although the Blackhawks are rebuilders, it wouldn’t be a bad thing for them to target him.
With the Blackhawks, Mikheyev would have the chance to possess a much larger role. For the majority of this season, the 27-year-old played on the Maple Leafs’ third line. Although he certainly was successful when utilized there, signing with Chicago would give him the opportunity to play top-six minutes. This, in turn, could result in the Russian forward putting up even greater point totals. This fact is something that could certainly grab his attention as an unrestricted free agent (UFA).
Overall, when looking at the Blackhawks and Mikheyev, there appears to be a potential match there. By adding him, Chicago would be landing a potential long-term part of their rebuild. Furthermore, Mikheyev would be given the chance to have a permanent spot in the team’s top-six forward group and power play. Let’s see if this leads to a summer signing from here.
Another right winger who the Blackhawks should consider signing this summer is Frank Vatrano. The 2021-22 season was a rather interesting one for the Massachusetts-native. Due to the Florida Panthers’ forward depth, he found himself traded to the New York Rangers before the deadline passed. In 71 regular-season games between the two clubs, he scored 18 goals and had 14 assists. However, with the Rangers this postseason, he has been playing first-line minutes. In this bigger role, he has been thriving, as his five points in six games show perfectly.
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When looking at the Blackhawks’ current forward group, it’s easy to tell that Vatrano would also be a perfect fit in their top six. Although he primarily plays right wing at this juncture of his career, his strong versatility also allows him to play left wing if needed. Yet, no matter which side he’s utilized on, his offensive ability would allow him to be a lock on the team’s second line.
When it comes to a player like Vatrano, a short-term deal would make more sense for the Blackhawks. Although he has shown over the years that he can be a very solid secondary scorer, it would be a bit strange to see the team commit to him for several seasons. A shorter contract would also allow the rebuilding club to flip him at the deadline for draft picks or prospects. However, even as a short-term investment, Vatrano would be worth it.
One under-the-radar pending UFA who could be an intriguing signing for the Blackhawks is Alex Chiasson. Heading into the 2021-22 season, there was doubt that the 31-year-old would find a new home. However, after signing a professional tryout contract (PTO) with the Vancouver Canucks, he earned himself a spot on their NHL roster for the year. Overall, it was a deal that benefitted both parties, as he showed that he could still be an effective bottom-six winger. In 67 games, he had 13 goals and nine assists.
Given the season that Chiasson had, the Canucks could elect to sign him to an extension before free agency begins. However, if they elect to move on from him, the Blackhawks should consider signing him. Every rebuilding team needs veterans to help guide their younger players, and he would provide them with another one.
Yet, Chiasson’s excellent net-front presence is what’s most valuable about him. This allows him to be a strong contributor on the power play, and this season showed that perfectly. He scored six goals and added four assists while on the man advantage with the Canucks. The Blackhawks adding this kind of player on their power play certainly has the potential to strengthen it. Furthermore, it is also a nice bonus that the 6-foot-3 winger likely wouldn’t cost the team more than $1 million on a one-year deal.
Nevertheless, it would be interesting if any of these three right-wingers end up joining the Blackhawks this summer. When taking a look at this trio, Mikheyev would be the biggest splash. However, adding either Vatrano or Chiasson could potentially be good, too. Alas, we will have to see what comes to fruition this offseason.