As a guest on NHL Network earlier this month, David Pagnotta casually shared some huge information. He reported that the Colorado Avalanche are one of the teams that have called the Chicago Blackhawks about the availability of Patrick Kane. Although any move involving the superstar winger seems more likely to wait until summer, one has to wonder if the Brandon Hagel blockbuster could change things on that front.
The Blackhawks made it known that they are serious about their rebuild when they traded Hagel. However, if Kane wants the opportunity to play for a Stanley Cup contender, he will have to let general manager Kyle Davidson know, as he has a no-movement clause. If the 33-year-old winger is open to a move, the team’s asking price would be very high. At a minimum, they would probably want at least one first-round pick, multiple prospects, and an NHL-caliber player. When looking at the Avalanche’s current roster, they do have the ability to reach it. Let’s discuss some players who we could see moving in a hypothetical blockbuster.
Samuel Girard is exactly the kind of NHL-caliber player who the Blackhawks should be targeting. Although he has already established himself as a top-four offensive defenseman, he is still just 23 years old. With that, he carries a $5 million cap hit until the 2026-27 season, so he would be a long-term investment if acquired. With the team having a fairly weak left side, he also could play top-pair minutes with them. That, in turn, could allow him to produce even more from the back end.
It has been another very solid season for Girard. In 56 games, he has five goals, 22 assists, and a plus-1 rating. Yet, there is also some belief that the Avalanche would be willing to move him in a Kane trade. Besides the fact that his contract would send money the other way, the team also has an extremely strong left side. Devon Toews is emerging into a top defenseman and although Bowen Byram has had a lot of injury trouble, he’s been excellent when available. If the latter can get healthy and continue to thrive, it could ultimately make Girard expendable.
One prospect who the Blackhawks would be wise to consider targeting is Justin Barron. The 2020 first-round pick has all the tools to become an effective top-four defenseman in this league. He has been noted for his excellent puck-moving ability and solid play in the defensive zone, so he could be a prime addition to the rebuilding squad. When looking at the team’s current roster, he could even immediately play in the NHL if acquired.
Barron is having a very strong first full professional season with the team’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Colorado Eagles. In 42 games on the year, he has five goals to go along with 15 assists. With this, it is clear that he is capable of producing decent offense at the AHL level. The real question will be if he can translate it over to the sport’s most competitive league. He has appeared in two games with the Avalanche this campaign and was held off the scoresheet. Yet, the sample size is far too small to judge him harshly.
If the Blackhawks were to trade Kane to the Avalanche, there’s no question that Alex Newhook would be their primary target. The 21-year-old has the potential to blossom into a legitimate top-six center and is already showing signs of that this season. In 52 games, he has 11 goals, 12 assists, and a plus-8 rating. With the Eagles this season, he also had four goals and seven helpers in just 10 contests. Therefore, he is very good at producing offense and would be a perfect addition for a rebuilding team.
Although the Blackhawks would likely target him, it’s hard to determine if the Avalanche would be willing to part ways with their top forward prospect. Although they are set to be contenders for years to come, Newhook will likely take over as the second-line center of the team if Nazem Kadri leaves through free agency this summer. He has the potential to become a big part of their future core, but if they want Kane to help their chances of finally winning the Stanley Cup, it may result in them moving him.
The Blackhawks will also have to address their goaltending during their rebuild. Marc-Andre Fleury has been in the rumor mill due to his expiring contract, and Kevin Lankinen will also be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) this summer. Therefore, they could look for a goalie of the future in a Kane swap, and one who could be just that is Avalanche prospect Justus Annunen.
Like Barron, Annunen is currently playing his first full season with the Eagles. In 41 appearances with the AHL team, he has a 22-10-6 record, 2.63 goals-against average (GAA), and a .907 save percentage (SV%). Overall, those are solid numbers from a 22-year-old goaltender getting his first real taste of North American professional hockey. With that, he also played in two games with the Avalanche this season, where he had a 1-0-1 record, 4.34 GAA, and .863 SV%. He did struggle with the NHL team, but he will have plenty of time to make up for it later down the road.
Nevertheless, the Blackhawks do have some appealing options from the Avalanche if the two decide to pursue a blockbuster centering around Kane. Although this is something that likely wouldn’t occur until the summer if it does, it’s never too early to take a gander at potential trading scenarios.
Michael DeRosa is a contributor who covers the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks for The Hockey Writers. Since 2017, he’s written and edited for numerous websites. Besides his work for THW, you can also find him on NHLTradeRumors.me, BBallRumors.com, BaseballRumors.me, FootballRumors.me and The Rat Trick.