Rangers’ 3 Trade Targets From Blackhawks

The New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks are two Original Six franchises headed in different directions. The Blueshirts have completed their rebuild and are a contender in the Eastern Conference due to their success at the midway point of the 2021-22 season. The Blackhawks are continuing to evaluate the talent on their roster to determine which players are significant to build around.

The team will be sellers at the trading deadline, as they are in seventh place in the Central Division. The team has improved after their disastrous start and with the hiring of interim head coach Derek King, but they are not a contender for the playoffs. Here are three Rangers’ trade targets from the Blackhawks.

Dominik Kubalik

It is uncertain if the 26-year-old forward is in the future plans for the Blackhawks, as he has nine goals and seven assists in 42 games played (GP) for the team this season. Dominik Kubalik did well in his rookie season of 2019-20, with 30 goals and 16 assists in 68 GP. He played in all 56 games of the abbreviated 2020-21 year and finished with 17 goals and 21 assists.

General managers (GM) of playoff-contending teams in need of forward help will be taking notice of Kubalik’s previous success and thinking he may be having a difficult season in 2021-22. He is due to become a restricted free agent (RFA) after this year. GMs will have the intention of buying low in terms of acquiring the Plzen, Czech Republic native, and hoping to put him on a contending team will turn his season around.

Related: 4 Potential Landing Spots for Blackhawks’ Dominik Kubalik

Kubalik could benefit from playing with Mika Zibanejad or Artemi Panarin, as both are excellent at getting the puck to their respective linemates. Interim GM for the Blackhawks, Kyle Davidson, may decide that trading the forward can put the team in a good position in terms of acquiring some players and draft picks to continue to build the future of the organization. The team has some players in Alex DeBrincat, Seth Jones, and Connor Murphy that represent the foundation for the interim GM or next GM to build around.

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

With Kubalik’s struggles this season, it remains to be seen if his future is in Chicago. He could benefit from playing on a contending team as he is just entering the prime years of his playing career. He has an average annual value (AAV) of $3.7 million before he is an RFA. Given his age and previous successful seasons with the Blackhawks, president/GM of the Rangers, Chris Drury, may decide to take a chance and buy low on the third-year forward.

Dylan Strome

The 24-year-old center is another player on a rebuilding Blackhawks team who may benefit from a change of scenery. Dylan Strome put up decent numbers for the team after he was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes in November 2018. In 58 games with the Blackhawks, he had 17 goals and 34 assists, and he followed that with 12 goals and 26 assists in 58 GP during 2019-20.

Strome struggled last season and has had difficulty in 2021-22. He has improved in winning faceoffs, which is a weakness for the Rangers this season. In November 2019, he commented, “I feel like I keep being [at] 30 percent, 40 percent, and it’s not helping us, so I’ve got to find a way to get that up or switch it up” (from ‘Dylan Strome’s plan to improve on faceoffs has worked to perfection,’ Chicago Sun-Times, 1/23/22). He made the necessary improvements, which have resulted in more faceoffs won for the native of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

Dylan Strome Chicago Blackhawks
Dylan Strome, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Strome’s career faceoff winning percentage was 47.1 percent before 2021-22, which he has increased this season. At the time of the article’s publication, he has won 55.9 percent of 236 faceoff attempts, which is an 8.9 percent improvement. He said, “It’s a lot of timing. We do a lot after practice every day. Learning from [Jonathan Toews] and seeing how he does it, timing is a big part of it. Whenever you’re in there, you want to start with the puck, and it helps your line create chances and maybe play a little more in the offensive zone. [I] try to be a guy your coach can throw out for a big offensive- or defensive-zone faceoff whenever they need it. Obviously, [Toews] takes a lot of those important ones, but sometimes he’s been out there for a while, and they need another lefty.”

Before the scheduled games on Jan. 26, the Rangers ranked 25th in the NHL with a faceoff win percentage (FOW%) of 47.6 percent. Strome could help a team out in that part of the game based upon his success this season. He has an AAV of $3 million before he becomes an RFA after 2021-22. If he is not in the Blackhawks’ long-term plans, there will be GMs from other franchises who will inquire about his trade availability by the deadline.

Calvin de Haan

The Rangers are in need of a stay-at-home defenseman as the March 21 deadline approaches. Calvin de Haan represents the kind of player whom Drury could seek to add to the depth of the blue line. The Blackhawks defenseman would currently be partnered with Patrik Nemeth or Braden Schneider if he plays on the Blueshirts’ third pairing.

De Haan is in the last year of his contract in which he has an AAV of $4.55 million before he becomes an unrestricted free agent (UFA). He would not cost much for the Rangers to acquire since he is a pending UFA.

He commented on what it is like to be the subject of trade rumors, “At this point in my career, I think I’m kind of open to anything. That isn’t the politically correct statement, but it’s the truth. My wife and I love it in Chicago, and if I’m a part of the plan and the future here, we’d obviously like to stay. But trades happen. At this point in my career, it’d be nice to get back in the playoffs, for sure. I had a taste of it in Carolina, a few times with the Islanders, as well. It doesn’t really compare to the regular season; it’s crazy. Even just watching it – I’m a fan of the game, too – it makes your hair stand up on the back of your neck a little bit. Whatever happens, it’s not up to me. But it’s not going to affect my play by any means. I’m still going to do my best to help whatever team I’m on win” (from ‘As trade speculation swirls, Calvin de Haan is happy with the Blackhawks but ‘open to anything,’ The Athletic, 1/26/22).

“Realistically, he is someone that teams would want, especially if they are a playoff-seeking team. He is a reliable, steady defenseman,” said Brooke LoFurno in a previous episode of Blackhawks Banter. The 30-year-old would be a good acquisition in terms of adding another experienced veteran to the blue line with young players such as Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren, K’Andre Miller, and Braden Schneider.

With the possibility that Nemeth may be elsewhere next season, de Haan could be a veteran who remains with the team beyond 2021-22 if he were to impress and could come to an agreement on a new contract. Given his current AAV, Drury may choose to look elsewhere in terms of finding a more affordable veteran defenseman due to Fox’s extension beginning in 2022-23.

The Blackhawks are another team that Drury may be in contact with before the conclusion of the trade deadline on March 21. The Blackhawks have some players in the prime of their careers and veterans who could mentor the young individuals on the Rangers roster. It remains to be seen how active the Rangers president/GM will be by the deadline, as the team’s needs could change between the end of January and mid-March. De Haan appears to be the player on the Blackhawks with the best chances of being a Ranger by the end of the deadline.

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