Blackhawks Banter: Untouchable Players Debate

The Chicago Blackhawks made some headlines because of their play this past week. They went on a four-game winning streak that was ended by the Minnesota Wild on Jan. 21 and 22. Because of the back-to-back losses by a playoff-bound team, it had people discussing what could come of the Blackhawks at the trade deadline on March 21. On Jan. 20, Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff mentioned that Chicago considers Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Seth Jones as the three untouchable players at the trade deadline.

With this news, I thought it would be a hot topic for our Blackhawks’ team, comprised of myself, Gail KauchakGreg Boysen, and Shaun Filippelli, to discuss on our weekly show, Blackhawks Banter. Here is a preview of our team’s picks for untouchable players.

Gail: Alex DeBrincat

The recent reports say he’s NOT untouchable, but let’s face it; Alex DeBrincat’s untouchable. The return would have to be out of this world for the Blackhawks to part with their star 24-year-old winger. To me, it’s a no-brainer to keep DeBrincat in the fold. We’ve had a front row seat here in Chicago to witness The Cat, as he’s affectionately called, develop into an all-around player and superstar. He’s the real deal.

DeBrincat’s in his fifth season with the Blackhawks, and currently in the second year of a three-year contract with an annual $6.4 million cap hit. Sure, he will demand a hefty raise come the 2023-24 season. But this is also when Toews and Kane’s matching $10.5 million annual contracts expire. They might both re-sign, but not for as much money.

Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks
Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Allot some of the extra money towards DeBrincat’s new contract and keep him around. I mean, come on! He’s currently leading the team in goals (24) and he’s second on the team in points (33). And let’s not forget about those 28 goals in his rookie season, 41 goals in his sophomore campaign, and 32 goals in the 2020-21 shortened season. DeBrincat is an alternate captain. The organization has been selling his smile as the future face of the franchise practically since he got here. I don’t see that changing any time soon.

Related: Alex DeBrincat: From Undrafted to Historic

Greg: No Player is Untouchable

We must remember to take these reports with a grain of salt. We are still two months away from the trade deadline, and a lot can change between now and March 21. The three names mentioned – Kane, Toews, and Jones – might be considered “untouchable” because of their cap hits. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to take on Jones’ big contract before it even kicks in. But all cap hits and contracts aside, nobody on this roster should be considered untradeable at this point. This team is going nowhere fast, and there isn’t much help on the way, either. It is time to tear it all down and build from scratch. Seeing Kane and Toews in different uniforms would be strange, but we must stop holding on to the 2010s. Those years are gone. At the very least, you owe those two one last shot at a Stanley Cup if that is what they desire.

I’m not saying you should be actively shopping a guy like DeBrincat, but you should listen to any offers made. The Blackhawks need assets. They need draft picks and talented prospects. Outside of Lukas Reichel, there are no difference-makers in the pipeline. General manager Kyle Davidson, or whoever is making these decisions, needs to answer every phone call and do what is best for the long-term of this franchise.

Shaun: Dominik Kubalik

While it’s fair to say that anyone and everyone should be made available if the price is right, especially as part of a rebuilding effort, there are some Blackhawks that shouldn’t be going anywhere at the moment. Simply stated, while this lineup isn’t meeting expectations as a collective, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some individual pieces that their future puzzle should be built around. One such player being Dominik Kubalik. Although the 26-year-old has finally started to trend in the right direction after a rather underwhelming start to the 2021-22 campaign, it’s safe to say that he’s at the lowest value he’s seen in his three years since breaking into the NHL. That reality alone should make the Blackhawks wary of trading him, as the return will be far from where it should be if he were performing in the way that he’s proven capable of.

Dominik Kubalik, Chicago Blackhawks
Dominik Kubalik, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

On the flip side, that should work to their advantage when it comes time to negotiate a more team-friendly extension this offseason. With the club having already witnessed the type of play that Kubalik strives for, that presents even more rationale for why he needs to remain throughout this roster shuffle. He has showcased the type of attribute that every franchise seeks — he can score. Through his first 124 games, accounting for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, he accumulated 47 goals. Again, it’s clear that he’s had a less than ideal season thus far through 2021-22. However, that doesn’t mean this is the norm to expect. His recent resurgence should suggest that he’s far from being done elevating his game. His type of prowess is a necessary component for Chicago’s rebuild and there are simply too many reasons against giving up on him at this point.

Related: Blackhawks Get 1st-Round Talent in 7th-Round Kubalik

Brooke: Riley Stillman

Riley Stillman would probably not be the first player that comes to mind when thinking about untouchable players, but I am saying his name because I think keeping him makes sense for a rebuild. When looking at the Blackhawks’ roster, they have some good defensemen. They have Jones, Connor Murphy, Calvin de Haan, and Jake McCabe. The thing is, the Hawks need to go on the path of a full rebuild. Whenever they decide to do that, then the aforementioned defensemen could help the Blackhawks in a trade return because of their value. Teams, especially playoff teams, are always looking for quality, depth defensemen. Jones aside, I can definitely see teams calling about the three other defensemen. If a trade involving those players comes to fruition, the Blackhawks will need to replenish their defensive depth and that is where Stillman comes in.

He is 23 years old, and has definitely made an impact this season. He has 10 points, which is a career-high for him. He also has six points in his last eight games, which is third on the team for defensmen behind Jones and Erik Gustaffson. Stillman is far from being elite, but he is showing what he could provide for the team’s future.

The Blackhawks have some nice defensive prospects in Stillman, Wyatt Kalynuk, Ian Mitchell, Isaak Philips, Jakub Galvas, Nicolas Beaudin, and Alec Regula. I would hold on to Stillman for now, continue to watch him grow, and then maybe he can be an anchor for the team’s blue line as they rebuild. He seems to be more of a proven commodity out of the prospect pool as well, which is an added bonus.

What do you say Blackhawks’ fans- who should be considered untouchable? We have a lot more to debate about this topic so make sure to tune in, subscribe to our Youtube Channel, and share your thoughts with us! New episodes drop on Tuesdays!

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