4 Veteran Forwards the Blackhawks Should Target in 2022 Offseason

Since Kyle Davidson was named the 10th general manager (GM) in franchise history on March 1, the Chicago Blackhawks have been in full rebuild mode. Their recent results have reflected it, too. Along with a 4-8-2 record since the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline, they have lost 10 of their last 12 games. Winning isn’t a goal right now for the Blackhawks though, and nor should it be, as the team gets younger and prioritizes the future.

Heading into the offseason, Blackhawks fans shouldn’t expect many — if any — big-name pickups like how former GM Stan Bowman acquired Seth Jones and Marc-André Fleury last offseason in an attempt to salvage the team’s competitive window. However, while there may not be as much movement, there’s still a realistic possibility the Blackhawks could acquire a few veteran forwards to provide middle-to-bottom-six depth and stability for a young group. Here are four veteran forwards they should consider pursuing, all of whom are set to become unrestricted free agents (UFA) this summer.

Andrew Cogliano

Andrew Cogliano, 34, has never been much of a scoring threat but has consistently been able to fill middle-to-bottom-six roles on multiple teams. After recording 15 points in 58 games for the San Jose Sharks this season, Cogliano was dealt at the deadline to the Colorado Avalanche, a team with Stanley Cup aspirations. In 12 games with Colorado thus far, he’s recorded just one assist, which is a little concerning offensively. However, he’s a great penalty-killing specialist, has logged more than 1,100 career NHL games, and could fill a role like that of Ryan Carpenter, who was dealt at the deadline to the Calgary Flames. He’d also bring great versatility, as he’s able to play both center and left wing.

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Cogliano’s current cap hit is $1 million, a price the Blackhawks could probably expect should he come to Chicago. He made his NHL debut in 2007 with the Edmonton Oilers and played there for the first four seasons of his career before he was dealt to the Anaheim Ducks in July 2011. Cogliano played for the Ducks for seven full seasons before he was traded to the Dallas Stars in a midseason deal in Jan. 2019. He then signed with the Sharks last offseason.

Something remarkable about Cogliano’s career is after making his NHL debut in 2007, he had skated in 830 consecutive NHL games before his streak ended in Jan. 2018. At the time, his ironman streak ranked fourth in NHL history, only behind Doug Jarvis, Gary Unger, and Steve Larmer. Given his versatility and experience, Cogliano could be a realistic target for the Blackhawks, as he’d provide solid bottom-six depth.

Nick Cousins

Nick Cousins, 28, has quietly emerged into an under-the-radar bottom-six forward since making his NHL debut with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2014-15. Cousins spent his first three NHL seasons there before he was shipped to the Arizona Coyotes in June 2017. After spending time with the Coyotes, Montreal Canadiens, and Vegas Golden Knights, he signed a two-year, $3 million contract with the Nashville Predators in Oct. 2020, so he’s set to hit the open market this offseason.

Nick Cousins Nashville Predators
Nick Cousins, Nashville Predators (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

Through 64 games with Nashville this season, Cousins has posted 22 points, five short of his career-high of 27 in 2018-19. He brings abrasiveness, a little bit of grit, and has a solid two-way game. The fact he’s still under 30 also means the Blackhawks could have more leeway to capitalize on his strengths while finding opportunities to grow in the process.

Should the Blackhawks pursue Cousins, I could see anywhere from $2-4 million being a realistic price. Like Cogliano, this would be a low-risk signing that would benefit Chicago’s forward depth.

Tyler Ennis

Since playing his first full NHL season with the Buffalo Sabres in 2010-11, Tyler Ennis, 32, hasn’t exactly been the top-six weapon many thought he’d be when he made his debut. A 2008 first-round pick of Buffalo, Ennis posted 49 points in his first full NHL season, which remains his career-high to this day. However, despite a noticeable drop in production since his rookie year, Ennis remains a solid middle-to bottom-six forward. He’s logged more than 700 career NHL games and posted 24 points in 57 games with the Ottawa Senators this season before he suffered a season-ending injury on April 3 against the Detroit Red Wings.

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Along with the Sabres and Senators, Ennis has also spent time with the Minnesota Wild, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Edmonton Oilers over his 13-year NHL career. While he’s relatively small at just 5-foot-9 and 161 pounds, he’s continued to provide offensive depth over his career and wouldn’t bring much risk despite a lengthy injury history. He is nearing the end of a one-year, $900,000 deal with Ottawa, and I could see the Blackhawks offering him around $1 million, give or take. He wouldn’t be a long-term piece, but he’d provide a veteran presence for what could be an inexperienced group.

Derick Brassard

Derick Brassard, 34, has been a league journeyman, to say the least. At last month’s deadline, the veteran center was traded from the Flyers to the Oilers in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round pick, marking the 10th team of his NHL career. While Brassard’s offensive production has dropped off since his early days in the NHL, he did post a career-high 60 points with the New York Rangers in 2014-15. He, much like Cogliano, also brings tremendous versatility. He has 521 points in 946 career games and posted 40 or more points in seven of his first 11 NHL seasons with the Rangers, Senators, and Columbus Blue Jackets.

Derick Brassard Edmonton Oilers
Derick Brassard, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

While Brassard does have top-six experience, it’d be hard for me to envision the Blackhawks giving him those types of minutes unless injuries occur. Chicago seems committed to a youth movement, so it would make total sense for the team to prioritize young forwards like Kirby Dach and Lukas Reichel at both the center and wing positions. Like Cogliano, though, he’d provide stability and might be the perfect asset for a rebuilding club.

When it comes to a possible contract, I could see the Blackhawks offering Brassard anywhere from $900,000 to $1.5 million with potentially a little more depending on how they view him. Though he’s never lived up to the expectations of when the Blue Jackets selected him sixth overall in the 2006 NHL Draft, he remains a solid playmaker and still offers some occasional offense even in his mid-30s.

Chicago’s Approach

All four of these forwards could be realistic targets for the Blackhawks this offseason as they continue rebuilding. Though Cousins is a bit of an outlier since he’s younger than the other three, they all bring similar traits and would give Chicago some much-needed experience. While both Ennis and Brassard have notable injury histories, they’d be low-risk moves especially if Davidson could get either player for around or less than $1 million.

Overall, the rebuild is still young for Chicago, and there are many uncertainties regarding the team’s future. At this point, it doesn’t make sense for the team to spend big or reverse course like how Bowman did last offseason after he “committed” to a rebuild in Oct. 2020. Ever since taking over as GM, Davidson has been honest and straightforward about his team’s approach. He hasn’t been afraid to make bold moves when necessary either, such as trading Brandon Hagel to the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 18. While none of these signings would necessarily be bold, they are the type of deals fans should gear up for if the Blackhawks look to add some experience to their lineup. There’s nothing wrong with that either, as all four of these players would benefit the middle or bottom six in one way or another.

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