This has been quite the week across the National Hockey League, and the Chicago Blackhawks were right in the middle of the headlines. Things started last Wednesday with the Seattle Kraken filling out their roster at the Expansion Draft. Next up was the NHL Entry Draft, and just before it kicked off, the Blackhawks finally pulled the trigger on a long-rumored trade. The busy start to the offseason continues on July 28, when free agency begins.
Related – Blackhawks 2021 NHL Entry Draft Recap
Our Blackhawks writing crew of Greg Boysen, Brooke LoFurno, Shaun Filippelli, and Gail Kauchak will get together to discuss all these topics and more on the latest episode of Blackhawks Banter. Today, we are giving you a little sneak peek of the discussion, which should be a memorable one.
Kraken Suprise Everyone, Including Blackhawks
On Wednesday, the Kraken went off the board when they selected pending unrestricted free agent John Quenneville off the Blackhawks roster. Many felt they might go with a defenseman like Calvin de Haan or Nikita Zadorov, or forward Adam Gaudette. What do you think about Seattle’s pick?
I think Quenneville going to Seattle is a nothing burger. I don’t think will be an impact move for Seattle. If anything, I think he may be used as an asset in another trade package or used on their AHL team. It’s a move that doesn’t hurt them in any way but seems like a way to fill the roster and nothing else.
The expansion draft was underwhelming at best. Kraken general manager Ron Francis acquired a few big names, but for the most part, his theme was to go young and save money. In a flat salary cap world, this is a smart move. Most teams are strapped for cap space, and the Kraken intend to use their extra money to their advantage in the coming weeks and months.
So, they basically punted on their Chicago pick of Quenneville. I wonder if he’ll even make the team or end up with their AHL affiliate. Either way, the Blackhawks NHL club didn’t lose a regular player after all. Although not everyone is going to fit, so look for some moves and trades coming up. Hopefully, the Blackhawks can now find a taker for Zadorov and get a decent return for him.
Obviously, the salary cap was on Francis’ mind, so when he looked at what the Blackhawks had to offer, he said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Losing Quenneville doesn’t hurt much as far as the roster goes. He was a nice player in Rockford but wasn’t going to compete for an NHL spot this season if he was even brought back. However, what does it hurt is not shedding the salary of either de Haan or Zadorov.
Without sounding overly disrespectful towards Quenneville, the Kraken picking him furthers the storyline that the Blackhawks truly didn’t have much to offer in this expansion draft. While there were bigger, more proven names left unprotected, we all knew that whoever was stolen from Chicago wasn’t going to be moving the needle very much for Seattle.
With that said, I still expected a more recognizable name to be taken, in that Seattle could have still leveraged the experience they would have brought. However, there were still roster requirements that needed to be met, and this clearly looks like it was being used more for the numbers game than the on-ice one.
Seth Jones is Finally a Blackhawk
After weeks of rumors and speculation, the Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets finally struck a deal for defenseman Seth Jones. Chicago sent Adam Boqvist, the 12th and 44th picks in this past weekend’s draft and their first-round pick in 2022, to Columbus for Jones and a sixth-round pick in 2022. Bowman quickly signed the 26-year-old to an eight-year contract extension worth $76 million ($9.5 AVV). So, what do we think?
I like Jones, but I am not happy about the length and term of his contract. I don’t think he is worth that much, and this seems like a contract that will put the team right back in salary cap prison. It seems like this will either be a great deal if he pans out or terrible for the next eight years.
Let’s start with the positive. Jones is going to be a HUGE boost to the Blackhawks back end and the team in general. I do believe last season was a bit of a fluke for him, and Seth’s previous body of work is more indicative of what he will bring to the Blackhawks. From a pure hockey standpoint, it will be very exciting to have Jones in the fold.
But from a business standpoint, I don’t like this deal AT ALL! Yeah, Jones will be the best defenseman on the team, but is he truly that elite that he’s worth all the Blackhawks gave up for him?! Boqvist and all those picks! Although even this I could get over. But to pay Jones $9.5 million for the next eight years!? That’s a lot of money and a lot of term! With a full no-movement clause to boot! Sorry, I’m trying not to use so many exclamation points, but I can’t help it.
Jones is just one guy, and the Blackhawks will likely be forced to sacrifice other talented players in the future to pay Jones his hefty salary. It’s an extremely risky move and also puts tons of pressure on Jones. With that kind of contract, he’s basically being asked to put the team on his back and be his absolute best with no wiggle room whatsoever. I hope it doesn’t come back to bite everybody in the butt.
I am in the middle of the road on the Jones trade. I like him, and he is instantly the best defender the Blackhawks have. If he becomes that elite defenseman Bowman believes he can be, they didn’t overpay for him, and his contract is at market value. There is a lot of money coming off the books over the next couple of seasons, so I am not sweating the long-term cap situation at this point.
The key is Jones going from a very good player to an elite one. As Bowman pointed out, Jones is the same age Duncan Keith was heading into the 2009-10 season when he made a similar jump. My biggest concern is that I don’t think the Blackhawks have the right head coach for him or anyone else to progress the way they should. But that is a different conversation for another time.
The most frustrating part of this move is that Bowman can’t seem to pick a lane. Is he rebuilding or is he trying to compete? Trading a young defenseman you drafted eighth overall just three years, moving down 20 spots in the first while giving up another first-round and a second-round pick is not what a rebuilding team does. It is more like spinning your wheels in the mud.
I’ve been rather transparent about my stance on this whole trade before it even happened, in that I never wanted it to come to fruition. Not because I don’t recognize what Jones has done and can potentially do, but because I was never in support of what it would cost to acquire this type of star power at this point in their rebuild.
On that note, my initial reaction when seeing the trade was actually less extreme than I expected. I didn’t mind what was given up in the swap. However, once I realized the contract that came alongside it, those pre-trade feelings came rushing right back to me. I wasn’t a fan of the move when it was hypothetical, and I’m still not now that it’s Chicago’s reality. It just doesn’t seem like they’ll see the return on this investment. But I do hope I’m proven wrong.
Help Wanted: Apply Within
NHL teams are free to sign unrestricted free agents starting on Wednesday. The Blackhawks still have some holes to fill on their roster and are working with about $10 million cap space with a handful of restricted free agents to re-sign. The acquisition of Jones takes them out of the running for Dougie Hamilton, so who is the one guy you’d like to see signed this week?
Brooke: Kyle Palmeri
Gail: Philip Danault
Greg: Jaroslav Halak
Shaun: Curtis McElhinney
Tune in Tuesday morning to find why we want to sign these players, plus more on both the Expansion and Entry Drafts. In the meantime, don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel and like us on Facebook. And for your viewing pleasure, here is our most recent Blackhawks Banter episode.
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Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. And, just because his plate isn’t full enough, Greg hosts trivia in the Chicago area two nights a week. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.