The Blackhawks Are Not One Player Away from Stanley Cup Contention (So They Must Plan Accordingly)

If you know me and have followed me on social media for a while, you’ll know that every once in a while I like to stir the pot or drop a grenade and run. Not looking at the explosion of course, because cool guys don’t look at explosions. Today was another one of those days on Twitter.

Just so we are clear, this tweet was one of those pot-stirring, grenade-dropping moments…

I have had not one, but TWO cups of coffee today. Just saying.

If you’ve read along with us here at Bleacher Nation Blackhawks, you’ll know that I 100% do not believe this is the way back for the Chicago Blackhawks. No one should believe this is the way back, because we live in reality and not inside an NHL 21 simulation.

In fact, within that same tweet thread, I laid out exactly where my thoughts are on the Blackhawks’ plans for this offseason and what I think they should be doing with trades and free agency to improve the team and get back to contending for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and eventually getting back to Cup Contender-status…

Dougie Hamilton, Seth Jones, Jack Eichel, and now Matthew Tkachuk all seem to be available this offseason either via the free agency or trade markets. Some of those players have been directly linked back to the Blackhawks like Hamilton and Jones, some not as strongly linked like Eichel, and some not at all at this point like Tkachuk (but it’s fun to speculate this time of year, right?). Only Dougie Hamilton would be an addition to the Blackhawks without having to give away anything else, theoretically. His price tag in free agency would likely cause the Blackhawks to have to maneuver to create cap space to fit him underneath it all. But with all four of those big fish, the Blackhawks are not suddenly right back in the mix at the top of the NHL by simply signing or trading for one of them.

Chicago is in a rebuilding process, playing the long game. They are invested in their young talent. They are currently looking in-house for the next group of core players to emerge and put the team on their shoulders once guys like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews can no longer carry the load of the organization. And if Toews doesn’t return for next season, we may already be at that point in time.

Players like Kirby Dach, Adam Boqvist, Alex DeBrincat, and Dominik Kubalík are already on their way to being “next core” pieces (DeBrincat is a lock), but there still needs to be some development among them, mainly Dach and Boqvist. Last season, a number of surprise players jumped out and looked like future building blocks like Brandon Hagel, Wyatt Kalynuk, and Philipp Kurashev. Plus we still have to see what guys like Nicolas Beaudin, Ian Mitchell, Alex Nylander, Mike Hardman, MacKenzie Entwistle, and Pius Suter could be if they reach their ceilings. That’s not even mentioning Lukas Reichel, Alec Regula, Michal Teply, or Isaak Phillips as players yet to show their talents in a full season in North America as professionals. Plus, Chicago’s  unsigned prospects like Landon Slaggert, Alex Vlasic, and Drew Commesso.

It’s not a “murder’s row” of a prospect pipeline, but the next core of the Blackhawks is not far off in my eyes. This offseason needs to be supplemented with smart moves, not just splashy ones. Signing Dougie Hamilton would be my only exception for the “one big move” offseason plan, but that may not be enough to get this current group in Chicago over the hump. Eichel, Jones, and Tkachuk are all young studs in the NHL, but would cost the Blackhawks major pieces (players and high draft picks) of their future and the net gain from acquiring one player like those three may not be enough to get them over the hump.

Less flashy, smarter, and more cost-effective moves for the Blackhawks to make this offseason could (should) include going after guys like Zach Hyman, Phillip Danault, Jamie Oleksiak, or even a player like Jon Merrill in free agency. Before the Blackhawks are contending for the Stanley Cup again, they need to find that next top-line impact forward, that next No. 1 defenseman, and that future go-to-starter in net. All three of those pieces may already be in their organization, but sacrificing any of them for one instant “fix” will not simply get Chicago back to the top of the NHL mountain next season.

written by

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.

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