Blackhawks: 3 Potential Landing Spots for Sam Lafferty

During his Chicago Blackhawks tenure, Sam Lafferty has shown that he’s the perfect role player. Despite getting limited opportunities to crack the Pittsburgh Penguins’ roster, Lafferty emerged as a major positive since Blackhawks general manager (GM) Kyle Davidson acquired him in Jan. 2022.

Lafferty’s versatility has greatly benefited the Blackhawks, along with his speed. He isn’t much of a scoring threat, but he is capable of occasionally generating offense. Through 40 games, he has 16 points (seven goals, nine assists), already surpassing his career-high of 13 points with the Penguins in 2019-20.

Lafferty has one year left on his current deal at $1.15 million before becoming an unrestricted free agent (UFA) in 2024. It wouldn’t be surprising if he stays post-deadline, knowing his style fits what Davidson is looking for in the next competitive Blackhawks squad. However, at 27 years old, it’s pretty much guaranteed Lafferty won’t be a long-term piece. Here are three potential landing spots should the Blackhawks look to move him.

Toronto Maple Leafs

In their piece for The Athletic, Scott Powers and Jonas Siegel discuss how Lafferty could improve the Toronto Maple Leafs’ forward group as he’d be a great option for their penalty-kill (PK) and bottom-six (from ‘Blackhawks’ Sam Lafferty could make sense for the Maple Leafs at the trade deadline,’ The Athletic, 01/23/23). Toronto’s PK has a middling 79.3% success rate, so he’d provide an instant boost there.

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Along with being a nice bottom-six option, Lafferty would also improve the Maple Leafs’ secondary scoring. While Toronto averages 3.39 goals per game, eighth league-wide, more than half of their goals have come from William Nylander, Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and Mitch Marner. Lafferty would therefore improve Toronto’s depth, much like when they acquired current Blackhawk Colin Blackwell at last year’s deadline.

Despite having a great core, the pressure is on for the Maple Leafs. The team could easily make a huge splash with such high expectations, but it’d also make sense if they focused on improving depth, which worked for the Colorado Avalanche during their Stanley Cup run last year. Toronto has reportedly expressed interest in Jake McCabe, so perhaps a package deal involving Lafferty could work with Chicago. The teams also have familiarity with each other after the Petr Mrázek trade last July, which could make a deal even more realistic.

New York Rangers

Just like the Maple Leafs, the New York Rangers have their core set, as Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, and Adam Fox are all locked up through at least 2026. Though a big-name acquisition, such as Patrick Kane, can’t be ruled out, improving their depth could be a priority. At last year’s deadline, the Rangers acquired Andrew Copp and Frank Vatrano, two moves that paid off during their run to the Eastern Conference Final.

Sam Lafferty Chicago Blackhawks
Sam Lafferty, Chicago Blackhawks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

After an underwhelming start, the Rangers have gone 15-5-4 since Dec. 2 and sit third in the Metropolitan Division. That said, some additional depth might be necessary for another playoff push, and Lafferty would particularly help their bottom six. Depth forwards Sammy Blais and Ryan Carpenter have both struggled this year, for example, and are currently with the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Hartford Wolf Pack.

The Rangers and Blackhawks haven’t made a move since Feb. 2019; however, it’d be logical if they made a swap this year, knowing both teams are heading in different directions. Lafferty might not be the big-ticket acquisition some expect the Rangers to make, but he’d nonetheless bolster their depth.

Minnesota Wild

There are a few directions the Minnesota Wild could go at this year’s deadline. At 25-17-4, they’re currently one point out of the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot and have enough talent to make a run. However, both Matt Dumba and Jordan Greenway could end up on the block, according to The Athletic (from ‘Wild trade board: Who stays, who goes and what’s Bill Guerin thinking?’ The Athletic, 01/26/23).

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Even if Dumba and/or Greenway go, it’d make sense if the Wild bought low this year. That could come with adding depth, making Lafferty a realistic fit. Both Ryan Reaves and Frederick Gaudreau are set to become UFAs this offseason, while pending restricted free agents (RFAs) Sam Steel, Mason Shaw, and Brandon Duhaime will all be due for new deals. If GM Bill Guerin is unable to get one or more locked up, Lafferty could be a nice replacement.

Despite being Central Division rivals, the Blackhawks and Wild aren’t strangers to making deals with each other. One of Davidson’s first major moves was shipping Marc-André Fleury to Minnesota at last year’s deadline, so a smaller deal between the two clubs can’t be ruled out. Like the Maple Leafs, he’d also improve a PK that ranks 15th league-wide with a 79.1% success rate.

Lafferty isn’t the first name that comes to mind when thinking about the Blackhawks’ possible trade chips, but he brings an energetic style that would benefit many contenders. His ability to play up and down the lineup also makes him valuable, and from a Blackhawks’ perspective, it would be great to see him play some meaningful hockey as the regular season winds down. Though there’s a good chance he stays in Chicago, Davidson has gone bold before, so a Lafferty trade ultimately wouldn’t be surprising.