This offseason is one that is considered to be a busy and exciting one for hockey fans. The NHL draft is less than a month away, on July 23. The Seattle Kraken has officially joined the league and will be holding the expansion draft two days prior to the NHL draft on July 21. And, the salary cap is expected to remain flat for the next five seasons. This means that all NHL teams have work to do to improve their clubs while keeping all those factors in mind. The Chicago Blackhawks are no exception and have a lot of hard decisions to make. On our weekly show, “Blackhawks Banter,” our Blackhawks’ team comprised of myself, Gail Kauchak, and Greg Boysen have to tap into the mind of general manager Stan Bowman to see what moves would be the right ones for Chicago. Here is a preview of what will be discussed.
Seth Jones Sweepstakes
The offseason rumors are coming in hot. The biggest one is surrounding Columbus Blue Jackets’ defenseman, Seth Jones. He allegedly told Columbus that he doesn’t want to sign an extension and wants to test the free agency market when his contract expires after next season. Now, there are many teams that would like to trade for him. Aaron Portzline of ‘The Athletic’ stated that the Los Angeles Kings are the early favorites in the trade sweepstakes, with the Montreal Canadiens and our very own Blackhawks expected to be “major players” as well. (from ‘Blue Jackets Monday Gathering: Brad Larsen getting long look, Jackets are overdue in the lottery, and growing interest in Seth Jones’ – The AthleticNHL – 05/31/2021)
Do you want the Hawks to trade for him?
Of course, I would love to see Jones in a Blackhawks sweater. I’m on record saying they need to add a No. 1 defenseman to their team in order to be contenders. He would fit that bill. But it’s not that easy. His contract lasts for another year. He’s indicated he wants to test free agency at the end of that, which is why the Blue Jackets might trade him before that. Whoever trades for him will have to give up some major assets, and they might only get him for one year! The Blackhawks certainly shouldn’t be giving up the farm for just one year.
Would Jones be willing to sign for a longer term with the right team? Are the Blackhawks that team? Bowman might not want to sign anyone for too long of a term anyway. In a perfect world, one or even two of his defensive prospects already in the system will be a No. 1 defenseman in the next few years. Remember, Adam Boqvist, Ian Mitchell, Nicolas Beaudin and Wyatt Kalynuk are all still very young. It takes defensemen longer to develop than forwards.
Personally, I think Bowman should commit and even give up some major assets if he can get a proven No. 1 defenseman. After all, someone like Jones is already proven. The above-named prospects are all still a crapshoot. But it has to go the other way as well. Will Jones commit to the Blackhawks? If so, go for it! If not, then pass.
I would absolutely want the Blackhawks to acquire Jones. He would solve a lot of problems on the blue line as he enters the prime of his career. However, I wouldn’t go overboard with the offer unless there was some agreement that he would sign on to play beyond the 2021-22 season. Giving up a big package of picks and prospects for one season makes no sense, but if you can be assured he is in for the long haul….go for it!
Yes, I would like to see Chicago try to land him, at least. I think we have seen enough of the Blackhawks’ musical chairs game with their defensemen. There’s a lot of them in the system, and it ends up with more questions than answers at the end of each season. We just don’t know what these player’s ceilings will end up being and there is no consistency whatsoever. Adding someone like Jones would provide a sense of security and consistency. It would also allow the team to build a proper defense around a number one defenseman.
NHL Draft Lottery
The NHL held the draft lottery on June 3. It wasn’t an eventful one for the Hawks because they didn’t jump higher in the order like they did in previous years. With that, they will be choosing at number 11 this summer. If you were Bowman, are you interested in trading up, down, or are you staying put?
While not as momentous as picking in the top three, the No. 11 pick should still fetch a quality prospect. German prospect Lukas Reichel was picked at No. 17 in the 2020 Draft. While he’s still unproven at the NHL level, many have high hopes for him. I’m interested to see who the Blackhawks choose here, but this year’s pick likely won’t affect the team for the upcoming season.
I’m more concerned with what kind of offseason trades Bowman will make to address some glaring needs. The team could use a No. 1 defenseman, more depth at center and even a veteran goalie as an insurance policy. The Draft is usually when trades start to pick up, so I’m excited to see how it will all play out.
I would stay put at No. 11 unless there is a guy he has targeted, say goaltender Jesper Wallstedt, and he feels he needs to beat someone to the punch. Otherwise, this is a pretty deep draft, and the Blackhawks should get a high-end player where they are currently slotted.
I’m always interested in trading up when it comes to the draft. If the draft is as deep as most are saying, then I want the team to snag the most elite talent the draft can offer because they desperately need a franchise-altering prospect. So, if there is a scenario where the Blackhawks can do that, then I think they should take that chance. But if they stay at 11, I won’t be disappointed either because that isn’t the worst spot to be in.
There are players on every team that are considered “untouchable” and “expendable.” Let’s talk about the “untouchable” players on Chicago. Those players are mostly considered to be Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach. Let’s make this interesting and give me a hypothetical on what could make a player like Kirby Dach expendable.
Sure, every player is expendable to a certain extent. But you would be hard-pressed to make me an offer for Dach at this point. I’ll admit I was a bit surprised when the Blackhawks’ picked him at No. 3 in 2019. But in hindsight, Dach has performed admirably and shown tons of potential in these past two seasons. Whereas the other centers picked after him, Alex Turcotte (No. 5), Dylan Cozens (No. 7) and Trevor Zegras (No. 9) all have more modest starts to their NHL careers.
Plus, Chicago needs all the center depth they can get, and Dach is a big, physical two-way player that the Blackhawks don’t have a lot of. Not to mention he’s the heir apparent to this team. In my book, he’s a keeper. If you forced my hand, I guess I’d take Jack Eichel over Dach if the Buffalo Sabres ate 75% of his $10 million cap hit for the next five years. But we all know that’s not going to happen.
I don’t think anyone on this roster should be considered untouchable at this point. Obviously, if you are going to move a player with Dach’s potential, there better be a big return. If somebody called me and offered a young, elite defenseman for Dach, like a Charlie McAvoy or Quinn Hughes, I’d make that move. However, I don’t think that phone call is ever coming.
I always held the notion that every player can be moved at the right price. I think there are a few interesting hypotheticals that could make a trade attractive. Obviously, there is a lot of great center talent around the league. If Dach were to be moved, there has to be a number one center involved in the deal, point-blank. There would also have to be a high draft pick included because he was picked third overall. If I were a general manager who got a call on moving Dach for someone like Mika Zibanejad (New York Rangers) or Vincent Trocheck (Carolina Hurricanes), I’d have difficulty turning that down.
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We’ll dive deeper into the questions above, as well as discuss more managerial decisions. So be sure to tune into the show and share your thoughts with us!
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