Oilers Should Have Blackhawks’ Kubalik as a Trade Target

All the talk of the Chicago Blackhawks‘ Marc-Andre Fleury being a great fit for the Edmonton Oilers has overshadowed that there is at least another player that they should be looking at. This is Dominik Kubalik. He is a scoring threat and the Blackhawks will be looking to make moves ahead of the 2022 Trade Deadline in order to get what they can from this season if they don’t appear to be in contention.

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The Oilers and Blackhawks are familiar with each other when it comes to making deals. Of the four trades that Oilers’ general manager Ken Holland made this past offseason, the first and maybe the largest was with the Blackhawks, acquiring Duncan Keith and Tim Soderlund for Caleb Jones and a conditional 2022 third-round pick.

Related: 3 Free Agents the Oilers Should Re-Sign

This trade saw the Blackhawks retain no salary. If a deal is to be made, this time around the Oilers may need the Blackhawks to retain a bit of salary unless they can send back a piece off their roster for around the same price. The Oilers will see how their goaltenders perform over the next while with the one-two punch they were hoping to have all season. If this doesn’t work out as they’d hoped, we could even see a scenario where both Kubalik and Fleury are traded to the Oilers in the same deal, though I wouldn’t get your hopes too high about that one.

Blackhawks Appear to Be Sellers

At this point in the season, the Blackhawks appear to be sellers — that means they’ll be considering moving any player that has some value and they don’t necessarily see in the long-term plans. (“Monday morning Blackhawks report: What would it take to get back into the playoff hunt?”, The Athletic, Dec. 20, 2021) Kubalik fits into this category, and as an upcoming restricted free agent (RFA), it will add a bit more value because whichever team has him in the organization, they have the exclusive rights to negotiate a new contract.

Dominik Kubalik Chicago Blackhawks
Dominik Kubalik, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

A big question that’s been brought up is how long until the Blackhawks fully break everything down and do an actual rebuild? It is almost a sure thing that Fleury isn’t a Blackhawk after this season, while the futures of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are still up in the air. They have a number of other young pieces to build around, and it’s normal to see a rebuilding team move on from someone with an expiring contract that can bring in a good return for the future.

By moving on from a player like Kubalik, it would open up a roster spot and the Blackhawks would be able to fill that with what they see as the future of their organization. The way the lines are set up, he isn’t getting the best chance to succeed, and understandably so since he has just six goals in 30 games. He will have to pick up his production at 5-on-5, but he has a better chance of doing so beside an elite centre on the Oilers rather than the third line of the Blackhawks. (“As shooting chances run dry, Blackhawks forward Dominik Kubalik searches for spark”, The Chicago Sun-Times, Nov. 19, 2021)

Oilers Can Add a Scoring Winger

There is no question that Kubalik would be put in a position to succeed in Edmonton seeing as they have a lot of high-level talent to surround him. There would be multiple options to deal with the lines and acquiring a player who has been known to score and having the ability to bring him back next season could be a great move for the Oilers.

The first option would be for the Oilers to continue to run the lines in the same format as they have for most of this season so far, with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the wing of Leon Draisaitl’s line. On the other side is Kailer Yamamoto who has struggled to even get shots on goal in recent games. It wouldn’t be too difficult of a decision to demote him to the third line and have Kubalik slide in on the right side, seeing as he can play both wings.

A high-energy line of Ryan McLeod, Warren Foegele, and Yamamoto is intriguing and it would give the Oilers an extra skilled forward to work with while building lines.

Kailer Yamamoto Oilers
Kailer Yamamoto, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

A more likely scenario is that the Oilers will finally be able to test out the three-centre system of Connor McDavid, Draisaitl, and Nugent-Hopkins. Foegele has shown he can elevate his game when playing on the top line and has finally gotten going, while Kubalik can add scoring to any of the three lines’ wings.

The Oilers would be able to solve their need for a third centreman by shifting pieces around after adding another winger who can score goals and increase the depth of the forward group.

In just his third season in the NHL, Kubalik is averaging just under 30 goals per season if he were to play a full 82-game schedule. A down year this season can be attributed to the lack of success of most players on the team and everything negative that surrounded the team this season thus far. But the last two seasons saw him score 30 in his rookie year in 68 games and 17 in just 56 games last season. He shoots a ton, and that goes perfectly with what the Oilers have been doing in recent games in trying to break the scoring slump they were on. They should also be able to get Kubalik at a reduced price seeing as he’s struggled on the Blackhawks this season.

Kubalik’s ability to stay healthy is an underrated part of what he brings to the team. He could be a very underrated addition before the trade deadline and have a major effect on how the team is structured and performs this season and beyond.

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