The Sell-Off Begins with Alex Nylander, So Who’s Next? And Other Blackhawks Bullets

Losers of five-straight games (0-2-3), the Blackhawks had their glimmer of hope under interim head coach Derek King that they could crawl back into a postseason chase dashed away as the calendar changeover to 2022. Now, they are stepping into sell-mode. Yesterday, we saw the first move of the selling process with the Blackhawks trading Alex Nylander to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Sam Lafferty. So now that the door is open, who else is walking out of it?

•   Nylander came to the Blackhawks in a one-for-one deal prior to the 2019-20 season for Henri Jokiharju. It was a downgrade move for the Blackhawks. Now he is traded again in a one-for-one deal, and again it is a downgrade for the Blackhawks.

•   Chicago’s first-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft has been one of the biggest blunders in the post-Stanley Cups era of the Blackhawks. They traded back with the Dallas Stars, who ended up selecting Jake Oettinger. Strike one. They then select Henri Jokiharju, but trade him two years later for Nylander. Strike two. Now they move Nylander, someone who could streakily score and produce, for Lafferty, who does not score or produce. Strike three.

•   Maybe I’m getting worked up over nothing? The Blackhawks don’t have anything to play for anymore this season and Lafferty is likely going to be gone in the offseason anyway, same with a player like Kurtis Gabriel. But it’s not building my confidence in interim GM Kyle Davidson as he’s trying to operate as if he’s going to be here in that position long-term.

•   But for a team with so many offensive deficiencies, acquiring and stuffing players like Lafferty and Gabriel into the lineup when you have a player like Lukas Reichel in Rockford, or you continue to shuffle or scratch Dylan Strome, makes little sense from a competitive standpoint.

•   With trading Nylander, Reichel now holds the team-lead in goals (8) by himself and still leads the team in points (14) this season.

•   He’s very clearly the top prospect in the Blackhawks system, but the problem is that the cannot be the only top forward in the system, as Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun-Times illustrates.

•   COVID has stalled his season a bit this year, but I’m still in favor of seeing him in the NHL with the Blackhawks to see what he can do at this level.

•   Maybe this is the beginning of the tank this season. If so, go for it.

•   Fleury, Strome, Kubalík, de Haan, etc. If they have value and are on expiring deals, move them. Only Fleury has trade protection (ten-team no-trade clause), so he’d be the only one to have a say about it. The Blackhawks are likely going to be picked apart at the chop shop, and it’s going to be depressing. Prepare yourselves.

•   At least we get to see Alex DeBrincat continue to drive his value to the franchise through the roof.

•   Chicago will have to figure out what they are doing at the center position, but I have a feeling that Jonathan Toews’ cap hit will be used to extend DeBrincat in the future.

•   Unsurprisingly, the January 18 game in Edmonton between the Blackhawks and Oilers has been postponed.

•   That is now six games the Blackhawks have had postponed. The February Olympic break is still expected to be when the NHL tries to make-up all of their postponed games, but I doubt it will work to only use that three-week break to fir them in.

•   Speaking of the Olympic break that is no longer for the Olympics, we talked about the NHL bringing back the World Cup of Hockey permanently and making it the marquee “Best vs. Best” tournament for NHL players. With that in mind, I took a shot at creating the rosters for a hypothetical summer 2022 tournament…

•   Six current (2021-22) Blackhawks are on the rosters, with a number of former Hawks sprinkled in there too.

•   Speaking of former Blackhawks, a Happy Birthday to Adam Burish!

•   After having hip surgery in the offseason, Tuukka Rask is back on the ice with the Bruins, just it’s not the Boston Bruins. He has signed a PTO deal with the AHL Providence Bruins.

•   He’s expected to play tomorrow night, which would be his first game since May 10, 2021.

•   In Bears news, there’s word of another type of return as there is a growing sense that GM Ryan Pace may not be out the door at the end of the season…

•   If you ask me, the non-football writer at Bleacher Nation, Pace and Nagy go hand-in-hand with the Bears and if you are moving on from one, the other goes with.

•   Speaking of changes, reports are that the New York Times is buying The Athletic…

•   I’m not well-versed in media purchases, but I have been a part of one. I was laid off as a result. I don’t know what this will mean for people at The Athletic, but I hope it’s better news than not. The Athletic has been an incredible venture in the sports media landscape and so many talented writers have found their home there. Here’s to hoping this is good news.

•   That will do it for today. Hope you all enjoy your Thursday!

•   We will see you tonight for Blackhawks-Coyotes at 8:00 p.m. CT with Pat Foley back on the call for Chicago.

written by

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

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