The NHL deadline is just 10 days away on April 12th at 2:00 p.m. CT. In a normal season, we would be getting hot rumors and possibly even a number of high-profile players on the move already. This season is far from normal and the trade market is at a stand still.
The Chicago Blackhawks have a lot of cap space with which to work ($23M) and the idea would be that if the Blackhawks could get significant draft capital in return, they may be willing to take on a bad contract or help teams facilitate a deal by being a third-team in a major swap.
It appears, though, that the player-for-player or player-for-picks market isn’t there this year – at least, not right now. We may even see Chicago do nothing at the deadline. That reality is becoming more possible as Chicago tries to stay in the playoff hunt and hold onto all the useful players they have.
So far, all we’ve seen as the deadline inches closer, is the Eric Staal trade to the Montreal Canadiens. Before that and since then, it’s been relatively quiet across the league, save for a few small deals. The thought at the time was that the Staal trade could possibly open up the floodgates to the market, or at least to the Buffalo Sabres seeking off more pieces. But it hasn’t happened.
Talked to a handful of NHL people about the trade deadline today. Common refrain: “Nobody wants to take on money right now.”
Sounds like “retained salary” is going to be hockey’s most-used phrase on April 12
— Emily Kaplan (@emilymkaplan) March 31, 2021
One of the major hang-ups to trades involving picks and prospects is the 2021 NHL Draft Class. There’s so much uncertainty surrounding this year’s draft class because most of the prospects have either barely played this season or not played at all. It’s an even more difficult job this season for scouts to fully get a good read on a lot of players. The NHL Draft this summer will be more of a guessing game.
With that in mind, team’s are putting more weight into late-round 2021 picks and future draft picks, for two reasons. One, if the 2021 Draft becomes a guessing game, the more guesses you have the better and with late-round picks, the more room for error there is. The other reason is that, we hope, the 2021-22 season will be more normal than the 2020-21 season was, and it will be easier to know more about the 2022 Draft Class.
For the Blackhawks, the late-round draft picks have been all over the board since Stan Bowman took over the General Manager duties in the summer of 2009. The 2010 NHL Draft was his first at the helm as General Manager. Between the 2010 and 2018 Drafts, Bowman and the Blackhawks have drafted 44 players in the fourth-round or later and only six have played more than 20 games in the NHL for the Blackhawks or elsewhere in the league.
The NHL Draft doesn’t create talent, it distributes it. The onus is on the organization to draft the right players and develop them into NHL-caliber players.
We’ll know more about where the Blackhawks stand in the playoff chase in the next eight days as they play four games in that time, all against teams that are in the playoff hunt in the Central Division.
If for some reason the Blackhawks end up going 0-4-0 in that stretch, maybe they are willing to be aggressive in the final days before the deadline to trade players on expiring deals like Mattias Janmark and Carl Söderberg, figuring they are going to be too far behind in the playoff hunt. If they are able to get four wins, or are leading the playoff chase, or are within a point or two by the deadline, they may as well hold those players as they fight down the stretch of the season for a playoff position.
If Chicago is not getting what they feel is fair return for using their current cap space, then they won’t make a deal just for the sake of making a deal. Bowman has said this season, on multiple occasions, that they are in a spot they haven’t been in before and there’s no rush to waste any leverage they have just for the sake of saying they did something at the trade deadline.
But, I would still like someone to do something as the deadline approaches.