After months of speculation, one of the rising young stars of the NHL has finally been traded ahead of the 2022 NHL Draft. The Chicago Blackhawks have dealt Alex DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators for a package of top draft picks, including the 7th and 39th pick in 2022 along with a third-rounder in 2024.
For the Senators, this is an expensive but worthy price to pay for DeBrincat. Yes, top picks are valuable, but they are a franchise loaded with young developing talent after years of making smart selections on draft day. What the team needs to take that next step is to have players who can produce on the ice right now and for years down the road.
To put it simply, DeBrincat is that player. In five seasons playing with Chicago, he has scored at least 30 goals three times and has twice posted 41 goals. The 2021-22 season was also his best yet, as he scored 78 points despite playing for a struggling Blackhawks team.
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For the Senators, both of these totals would have easily led the franchise in scoring last season. While they have young players who have the potential to be offensively exceptional, they really needed someone like DeBrincat to push their offensive core over the top, making a few draft picks a worth price to pay.
Why Would the Blackhawks Trade DeBrincat?
With so much positivity put toward DeBrincat’s ability, it does beg the question: why would Chicago trade DeBricat at all if he’s still a relatively young forward on a reasonable $6.4 million cap hit until 2023? He’s also a restricted free agent when his current contract expires, meaning the team would still have control over him to sign a long-term deal.
Well, the simple reason is that the Blackhawks are admitting that it is time for a full rebuild. With Kyle Davidson taking over as general manager during the 2021-22 season, he appears to have looked at the team he inherited and decided it was good but not good enough to win Stanley Cups. So, he has been aggressively selling off top assets to return as many picks and future assets as possible. This led to the trade of Brandon Hagel at the 2022 Deadline, and now the departure of DeBrincat.
The bad news for Chicago fans is that this teardown is likely to get worse before it gets better. However, at least the team appears to be fully committed to the idea of maximizing the value of their players whenever possible. Returning the seventh-overall pick alone is a big piece to add to their cupboard, along with the additional second and third-rounders.
If handled properly, this should be the start of the three to five-year process to rebuild and get back into contention. That doesn’t make it easy to experience, however, especially when your team is trading away a young star.
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Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.