If the Blackhawks want to accelerate their rebuild and bring in a top-caliber defenseman to help shore-up their problems, they’ll have options. Two notable defensemen available on the trade and free agency market this summer are Seth Jones and Dougie Hamilton.
And we know that the Blackhawks need a No. 1 Defenseman, have young assets that could move in a deal, and that Jones and Hamilton are about to be available on the market.
All of that should point to the Blackhawks being active this offseason when it comes to making a drastic improvement to their defensive core heading into 2021-22 and beyond.
With that in mind, The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus and Scott Powers dove into a little bit of what they are hearing about the plans for Chicago this offseason, specifically when it comes to Jones and Hamilton:
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) June 17, 2021
According to their sources, the Blackhawks are going to be taking a hard look at their options with both players:
“We like them both,” a source said. “Hamilton is more of an offensive defenseman. Jones is probably more of a two-way defenseman.”
In the case of Hamilton, the price will have to be right. Hamilton is likely to ask for a long contract, and the Blackhawks understand that. It’ll come down to the cap number Hamilton seeks. If he’s looking for a deal like Alex Pietrangelo’s, which was seven years with an $8.8-million cap hit, the Blackhawks will probably walk away. At a lower cap number, they’ll engage.
With Jones, it’ll depend on what the Columbus Blue Jackets ask for him. The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline wrote recently that he thought the asking price for Jones would be high, but it would mostly be draft picks and prospects. One league source thought it would take at least a first-round draft pick, a second-round draft pick and a high-end prospect.
Another league source said Kirby Dach likely would have to be part of any deal for Jones. The source believed Jones would be worth it, too. When Jones’ struggles over the past two seasons were brought up, the source pointed to overuse and a weak supporting cast in Columbus.
Chicago no longer has a true No. 1 defenseman in the NHL at the top of the blue-line rotation. Additionally, their young prospects and NHL-level young players are not guys, currently, that you can point to as THE guy moving forward. Although, we all would like to believe Adam Boqvist could potentially still become that guy.
Hamilton has permission to talk to other teams ahead of the official opening of free agency in late-July. He’ll be looking for the best deal possible before deciding what he’ll want to do with Carolina. The sense is that both sides want Hamilton to return, but if the money is right elsewhere, Hamilton may move on.
As for Jones, he has already told the Blue Jackets he will not be re-signing with the club once his current contract ends after the 2021-22 season. So for Columbus to not lose him for nothing, they would be wise trading the 26-year-old defenseman before the season or at the NHL Trade Deadline next spring.
The Blackhawks have cap room to make a deal work for both, but they are likely to make sure all of their in-house restricted and unrestricted free agents-to-be are accounted for before making a move on either Jones or Hamilton. With 41 of 50 contracts already on the books for 2021-22, the Blackhawks will not have too much room for all of their own pending free agents and will likely be moving a player, or players, this offseason. Not to mention they will be losing at least one player during the Seattle Expansion Draft, if they don’t trade any others during that time too.
To be clear, the situation is still fluid. And Chicago’s long-term goal is still the investment in their young talent and adding more to the mix. You would REALLY have to believe a few things. Firstly, Jonathan Toews is coming back and is going to be 100% of the Toews of old. Secondly, that Lukas Reichel, Henrik Borgström, Pius Suter, David Kämpf, and Dylan Strome were answers at center. Thirdly, being comfortable at center would need to happen to facilitate trading Kirby Dach to pry away Jones in a deal that would likely need multiple first and second round draft picks and top-end prospects to acquire.
It all seems great on the surface, but in reality, the Blackhawks are unlikely to land either in my eyes. They won’t make a splash deal or signing just for the sake of making a splash deal or signing. Again, their long-term goals are set in the investment in their young talent already in the organization. Unless the price is exactly right, I don’t see either player in a Blackhawks sweater next season.