Last Saturday (Nov. 19), Boston Hockey Now writer Jimmy Murphy reported that an NHL executive told him that Chicago Blackhawks legend Patrick Kane “makes a lot of sense” for the Boston Bruins. Ultimately, it would be understandable if Bruins general manager (GM) Don Sweeney made a push for Kane, as Boston is aiming to win one last Stanley Cup for veterans Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. Adding Kane to their top six could be exactly what cements them as the legitimate favorite for the Stanley Cup, as they would be acquiring another superstar to their already-excellent group.
Yet, before the Bruins can even consider the prospect of acquiring Kane, they will need to become cap compliant first. Once Derek Forbort is activated off of long-term injured reserve, Boston will be over the cap. Mike Reilly has emerged as the most obvious trade candidate, so once this situation is resolved, the Bruins will go from sellers to buyers. For a Kane trade to have any chance of working, the Blackhawks and a third team will need to help retain a significant portion of his $10.5 million cap hit. This, in turn, would allow Chicago to demand more for Kane, so doing business with Boston may be worth it for them.
Let’s look at four players who Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson should be targeting from the Bruins in a hypothetical Kane blockbuster.
For much of this season, Craig Smith has been a healthy scratch for the Bruins. His placement on Boston’s depth chart has fallen rapidly due to both Nick Foligno bouncing back and the arrivals of Pavel Zacha and A.J. Greer. As a result, Smith has become the odd man out in their forward group, and it would make sense for the Bruins to part ways with the 33-year-old winger. The Bruins have already reportedly tried to trade him, too, so Sweeney would likely be willing to add him in a deal for Kane.
While playing at his best, Smith is a quality top-nine winger who produces very solid secondary scoring. Although he only has three points in 12 games this season, he scored 16 goals and recorded 36 points in 74 games just last season. Therefore, if utilized more often, there’s certainly reason to believe that he can reach numbers like these again. A move to Chicago would allow him the opportunity to play top-six minutes and receive power-play time again. Thus, being traded there could be extremely beneficial for both the player and the Blackhawks.
Furthermore, if a Kane deal occurred a bit before the deadline, Smith could immediately become a rental candidate for the Blackhawks. If the Madison native were to heat up after being moved, it would raise his value and help Chicago land a decent return for him as well.
The Blackhawks would be wise to make a push for Trent Frederic in a move centering around Kane. The 2016 first-round pick is starting to become a legitimate third-line winger and is currently playing the best hockey of his young career. In 18 games thus far, he has three goals, three assists, and a plus-9 rating. His defensive play has improved significantly, while he is continuing to make an impact physically (22 hits). Overall, the 24-year-old appears to be heading in the right direction with his development, and Davidson would be wise to make a push for the St. Louis native because of it.
Latest News & Highlights
With Chicago, Frederic could also have the chance to play more meaningful minutes. Due to the Bruins’ strong forward depth, it is very unlikely that he will ever be given a top-six role in their system. However, that certainly could change if he was dealt to the Blackhawks, as their forward group is not particularly impressive. With that, they are likely not only going to trade Kane this season, but also fellow pending unrestricted free agents Jonathan Toews, Max Domi, and Andreas Athanasiou. As a result, that would only heighten his chances of playing on their second line at a minimum.
Due to Frederic’s good upside, he’s certainly a player who the Blackhawks should consider pursuing. At worst, they would be getting a very serviceable and gritty third-line winger, but if he were to take that next offensively, he would be a home run of an acquisition.
One Bruins prospect who could make a lot of sense for the Blackhawks in a Kane trade is Johnny Beecher. The 2019 first-round pick may be developing slowly, but he has the potential to blossom into a middle-six forward at the NHL level. After a three-year tenure with the University of Michigan, Beecher started his professional career with the Providence Bruins last season, where he has five points in nine games. In 16 American Hockey League (AHL) games this season, his production has dropped a bit, as he has two goals and six points. Yet, as he continues to get used to professional hockey, it seems likely that his offense will noticeably increase.
Beecher is a prospect who will need to spend a bit of time in the AHL before becoming a full-time NHL player. As a result, he would not make an immediate impact on the Blackhawks if acquired. However, if his all-around game improves as the 2022-23 campaign continues, one may argue that he could push for a spot in the Blackhawks’ bottom six as soon as next season. His physicality and solid defensive play could make him work quite well on Chicago’s fourth line by then.
Nevertheless, if Beecher can find his offensive game, he does have the potential to blossom into a third-line NHL center at a minimum. These are the kind of prospects that Davidson should be looking to add during the Blackhawks’ rebuild, so let’s see if they end up making a push for him from here.
To acquire Kane, there’s no question that Sweeney is going to have to part ways with one of the Bruins’ top prospects. With David Pastrnak’s future in Boston currently uncertain, there’s no chance that he would even consider the possibility of moving fellow winger Fabian Lysell. Yet, with the left side of the Bruins’ defensive group now being immensely strong, he could very well be open to parting ways with fellow top prospect Mason Lohrei if it results in landing Kane.
Although many were surprised that the Bruins selected Lohrei in the second round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, the 21-year-old defenseman has raised his value as a prospect significantly since. As a freshman last season with Ohio State University, he scored four goals and recorded an impressive 29 points in 31 games. The 6-foot-4 defenseman can produce well from the point offensively, but he also has been noted for his extreme physicality. All of this makes it very likely that he has the tools to become a top-four NHL defenseman, so why wouldn’t Chicago want to add him to their system?
If the Blackhawks acquired Lohrei before the deadline, he would not be able to join their NHL roster immediately because he is currently playing for Ohio State. However, once their season is over, he would be free to join Chicago for the end of the 2022-23 campaign if he elects to end his collegiate career. In this scenario, Lohrei would surely be in the running for a spot on the Blackhawks’ bottom pairing and power play. Yet, in the future, he could be on their top pairing if he reaches his full potential.
Along with these assets, the Blackhawks would likely also be able to score the Bruins’ 2023 first-round pick and 2025 second-round pick due to the needed salary retention. Alas, it would take a lot of creativity for Boston and Chicago to make a deal centering around Kane come to fruition, but it isn’t impossible. Let’s see if these two Original Six clubs can strike this blockbuster before the trade deadline passes.
Michael DeRosa is a contributor who covers the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, & Detroit Red Wings 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 NHL Trade Rumors.