It’s mid-July, and we’re headed into one of the busiest stretches of the NHL offseason. The Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft is on Jul. 21, the entry draft is set for the 23rd and 24th, and free agency officially begins on the 28th. Just like the rest of the league, the Chicago Blackhawks are actively planning for the future. Today our crew of Shaun Filippelli, Brooke LoFurno, Greg Boysen and Gail Kauchak tackle a few hot topics in preparation for our weekly Blackhawks Banter show.
The Fleury Factor
According to Scott Powers of The Athletic, a source has told him the Blackhawks might be interested in trading for goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury from the Vegas Golden Knights. Fleury only has one year left on his contract, but it’s for a hefty $7 million. (from ‘Blackhawks’ Duncan Keith trade was best for him and the team’, The AthleticCHI – 7/12/21)
We’ve discussed in the past how adding a veteran goaltender might be a good idea for this rebuilding team. But an important word is being left out here; the desire for a “cheap” veteran goalie. Fleury doesn’t exactly fit that bill. What kind of package/situation, if any, do you feel would make it worth acquiring the star Vegas netminder?
When I first saw the Fleury rumor, I just shook my head. However, the more I thought about it, the more this move makes sense if done correctly. It’s no secret that the Golden Knights want to be aggressive this summer, even possibly making a play for Jack Eichel or Vladimir Tarasenko. They will need to clear a ton of salary cap space to make a big trade happen. Enter the Blackhawks…
Right now, the Blackhawks are one of the few teams that can take on all of Fleury’s salary cap hit. They can squeeze the Golden Knights to sweeten the pot, much like the Carolina Hurricanes did when they got Teuvo Teravainen to take on Bryan Bickell’s contract. There has been talk that young center Cody Glass has fallen out of favor, so have him added to the trade and bring in Fleury. Then, you can flip him at the trade deadline for more assets by retaining most, if not all, of his salary. The Blackhawks can really add some nice prospects or high draft picks if they play their cards right.
Would it be beneficial to have a goalie of his caliber? Absolutely. But there isn’t much I would give up to acquire him considering that Fleury would not be a good fit with the direction they’re going. I would only give up a late round draft pick, like a 5th round pick and a prospect that won’t be in the Hawks’ organization long-term, like Reese Johnson. Basically anything that won’t hurt the Hawks in any way, but I don’t think Vegas would accept a trade package like that for Fleury.
First and foremost, I am a big Fleury fan. I have been since his days in Pittsburgh and have followed him during his time with Vegas. I think he’s been severely underrated, especially given his consistent level of success, and am glad he’s finally been rewarded with his first Vezina Trophy.
That all said, similar to my take on adding big-name defensemen, I don’t think now is the time for the Blackhawks to be throwing away the type of spend required for these types of stars. Would he help improve their goaltending? For sure, but the return won’t justify the cost given that they are more than an award-winning goalie away from contending.
I will preface this by saying I would absolutely LOVE to see Fleury as a member of the Blackhawks. He’s always been one of my favorite goaltenders, and even at the ripe old age of 36, he still puts up elite numbers. Oh that’s right, he was the Vezina winner this past season.
Fleury was cast aside by the Pittsburgh Penguins in favor of Matt Murray in 2017. Then he went on to become a leader and star for the new expansion team, the Golden Knights. He was rewarded by being threatened as taking backup status to Robin Lehner these past few seasons. Although it hasn’t exactly worked out that way…
The veteran netminder certainly would light a fire under the Blackhawks existing goaltender, Kevin Lankinen. He could show him the ropes and help him become the No. 1 goaltender we all hope he will become. Would one year of Fleury as the insurance policy do the trick for Lankinen’s development? Maybe.
But wait. Just wait. Fleury’s contract is for $7 million this coming season. That’s a lot of money! The Blackhawks do have a lot of extra cap space now that Duncan Keith’s $5.5 million cap hit is off the books, plus Brent Seabrook ($6.875 million) and Andrew Shaw ($3.9 million) will be placed on long-term injured reserve.
Ultimately, the real need is on defense. I’d like to see the Blackhawks spend their extra money on one or more defenseman before they go crazy with $7 million on a “backup” goaltender. So, unless the Golden Knights are willing to retain something like half Fleury’s salary, this just doesn’t make sense to me.
Counting on Keith
We’re all still reeling a bit from the Keith trade, and in the aftermath TSN’s Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun provided some more details of the trade. As we know, Keith and forward prospect Tim Soderlund went to the Edmonton Oilers, and Caleb Jones and a 2022 third round draft pick were the return for the Blackhawks. But apparently this third round pick will become a second round pick IF the Oilers win three rounds in the 2022 players AND Keith is among the top four defensemen in time on the ice during those first three rounds.
Apparently Blackhawks’ general manager Stan Bowman used Keith’s extensive playoff experience and his workhorse reputation as selling points to the Oiler’s general manager Ken Holland. Do you think A) the Oilers will make it three rounds, and B) Keith will be in the top-four in TOI?
This will be a third-round pick. I have little doubt that Keith will be in the top-four in TOI, but this current Oilers’ roster is not winning the Western Conference. They have mediocre goaltending and nobody of significance to play with Connor McDavid. They could make some changes, but that would mean moving some big chunks of salary after taking on all of Keith’s cap hit.
I say ‘no’ on both fronts. The Oilers could be a potential contender, but there are a lot of areas that need an upgrade if they want to be serious contenders. So unless they make a big move at other positions, like goaltender, I don’t see them making it past three rounds.
And no, I don’t think Keith SHOULD be top four in ice-time. I’m putting emphasis on “should” because they shouldn’t have to use him in that capacity considering they have other players taking on the heavy minutes like Darnell Nurse, but that doesn’t mean Keith won’t play heavy minutes. But overall, I don’t see that happening.
As we discussed on last week’s show, it feels like there are too many people hung up on the financials involved as opposed to recognizing what Edmonton was able to get in Keith. Of course he isn’t as effective as he once was, but that’s to be expected. If utilized properly, they now have one of the hardest working and accomplished defensemen in the league. Pretty good add, given the youth and inexperience throughout the Oilers’ lineup.
As far as the contingencies in place, I’m split. No, I don’t think Edmonton will make it three rounds this soon. However, it’s always a good wager to bet on Keith eating up a ton of minutes. As a side note, the ice time clause also felt a little sneaky to me. In that they can monitor it to ensure he doesn’t get into that bracket, if he does end up coming close. Time will tell, but I don’t think it all pans out in that manner.
No, I don’t think the Oilers will make it three rounds. Just look at their history. This is the same team that lost to the Blackhawks in the play-in round, and then got swept by the Winnipeg Jets in the first round this past season. Yeah, the team is working on getting better. Superstars McDavid and Leon Draisaitl will eventually get their due. I could see them winning one or two rounds in the 2022 playoffs. But three rounds? Nah, not yet.
Now on to Keith. We’ve been harping on the fact that he shouldn’t be leaned on anymore as a No. 1 guy. The Blackhawks were asking him to carry the load when he just couldn’t manage that anymore. But cut his ice time and his responsibility, and he’s still a very serviceable defenseman. I believe the Oilers will do that, and they will consequently be very pleased with the value they get from Keith.
The playoffs are where Keith’s leadership and experience will be invaluable. No, I’m not saying he should be the first, and even the second blueliner in ice time. But within the top-four? Quite frankly, I’d count on it.
Expansion Draft Predictions: Defense
The Blackhawks player protection list for the expansion draft will be common knowledge this Sunday. But we still have a few more days to make our educated guesses. Speculating who they will protect on defense has caused the most widespread discussion. Let’s assume the Blackhawks choose the traditional route and protect three defensemen. Which three do you think it will be of Calvin de Haan, Caleb Jones, Connor Murphy, Riley Stillman and Nikita Zadorov?
We can then compare our predictions to the actual list on our upcoming Blackhawks Banter show.
Please join us this Tuesday for our weekly Blackhawks Banter show to further discuss the above topics. Plus we’ll get into much more detail about the Blackhawks protected list and the upcoming expansion draft. You can subscribe to our YouTube Channel, like our Facebook Page, follow along on Twitter, and find us on your preferred podcast platform. Our most recent episode is featured below.
Gail Kauchak has covered the Chicago Blackhawks as a content writer since 2014. She previously wrote for Fansided’s Blackhawk Up, and has been part of The Hockey Writer’s team since 2017. It’s not always easy to balance life’s responsibility’s with one’s passion, but Gail’s doing her best to make it happen. Quote to live by, “Follow your dreams, and good things will happen.” Wait, maybe it’s “Good things happen when you shoot the puck!” You get the idea.
Follow Gail for her unique commentary about this storied franchise. And be sure to catch her and the rest of the Blackhawks’ crew on their weekly Blackhawks Banter show, as well as follow her on Twitter.