Chicago is not currently, and not likely going to be at any point this season, a serious Stanley Cup Playoff contender. At 15-18-6, they are still under-.500 and in the bottom-third of the NHL with 36 points. With the NHL Trade Deadline approaching (March 21) and a number of players on expiring deals, the Blackhawks should very much be listening to the best offers available on all of them. Let’s see what’s the latest.
Dominik Kubalík and the Oilers
There has been talks of Kubalík being on the trade-block since last season. But now on the final-year of his bridge-deal with a $3.7M AAV cap hit, his trade value has increased as a rental. He’s a restricted free agent this summer, and if he were to be traded, the acquiring team may likely let him walk after the season to avoid the $4.4M qualifying offer on him. Unless, of course, the former 30-goal scorer went on some sort of scoring tear for his new club and made significant contributions in a playoff run. Then they might reconsider.
The Athletic’s Erik Duhatscheck has Kubalík at No. 9 on his latest NHL Trade Deadline big board, and mentions the rumor out of Czechia connecting Kubalík to the Oilers.
Kubalík has nine goals and 16 points in 39 games with the Blackhawks this season.
Trade or Re-Sign: Dylan Strome
Mentioned alongside Kubalík in Duhatschek’s feature is Dylan Strome. According to Duhatschek (and, in another post, Mark Lazerus), the Blackhawks have been trying to trade Strome since at least last season. That has reportedly continued this year, but it has probably been really difficult to sell a team on a $3M AAV cap hit for a rental player who was in-and-out of the Chicago lineup early in the season.
There’s also the potential, as Lazerus reports, that the Blackhawks may have interest in re-signing Strome this offseason to a much smaller cap hit, but would have to do so after letting Strome’s restricted free agency period expire, avoiding his $3.6M RFA qualifying offer.
A team source wouldn’t rule out the idea of re-signing Strome at a much lower salary this summer, or even letting him simply walk as a restricted free agent, but if a team wants to take a flyer on Strome regaining his scoring touch, it would probably only cost a third- or fourth-round pick.
Given Chicago’s lack of NHL-ready depth at the center position, there’s potential for Strome to stick around beyond the 2021-22 season. David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period lists Strome at No. 7 on his latest Trade Watch List.
Strome has three goals and ten points in 26 games with the Blackhawks this season.
Kane and Toews Staying Put?
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The duo are on year seven of matching eight-year, $84M extensions signed back in the summer of 2015. While Kane is still playing worthy of his $10.5M AAV cap hit, Toews is not. But, as Mark Lazerus reports, the Blackhawks currently have no interest or plans to move either player, unless they ask to be traded.
Trade either of them, let alone both of them, this season would be very difficult given their cap hits, but not impossible. This is still the NHL and there’s lots of ways either of these two could fit onto a contending team. If the story in Chicago is the same as it has been the past few seasons next year in 2022-23, the final year of their deals, their trade value would go down overall, but the likelihood of them being able to be moved as elite rentals goes way up.
Extension for Alex DeBrincat?
This summer will be interesting for the Blackhawks, like most summers are for NHL teams, but more specifically because it will give us an idea of what direction the club wants to go. Once the NHL calendar flips from 2021-22 to 2022-23 on July 13, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Alex DeBrincat will all be eligible to sign contract extensions with the Blackhawks. The only one you can pretty much guarantee will happen at some point, is DeBrincat.
As The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus reports, even Alex DeBrincat himself knows that there’s so much for Chicago to figure out before the organization even starts to think about his extension: “I know there’s a lot of unknowns in the organization right now. I’m sure I’m not their first priority right now.”
DeBrincat is playing at an elite level this season, leading the team with 23 goals and his 32 points in 39 games is second in behind Patrick Kane this season. He is on a 50-goal pace again this year after scoring 32 goals in 52 games last season. All signs point to DeBrincat being a cornerstone piece of the future in Chicago.
Calvin de Haan
There’s always a need for veteran defensemen at the NHL Trade Deadline. Playing in the final year of a four-year, $4.55M AAV deal signed with the Carolina Hurricanes, Blackhawks Defenseman Calvin de Haan has considerable trade interest this season. On a contending team, de Haan would fit in nicely as a third-pair option who can give you ample minutes and play on the penalty-kill. He is seventh in the NHL among 174 defensemen to play at least 25 games this season with 6.71 blocked shots per 60-minutes and is one of 17 defensemen to play at least 30 games and have six or fewer penalty minutes this season.
David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period lists de Haan at No. 6 on his latest Trade Watch List.
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Fleury has a ten-team no-trade clause on his current deal. He also has a $7M AAV cap hit that is decreasing by the day in actual dollars owed to him. His play has been outstanding this season, mainly since Derek King took over as interim head coach. Since November 7, Fleury is tied for fourth in the NHL with 12 wins, second in save-percentage (.930) and fifth in GAA (2.17) among goalies to play at least ten games, and has all three of his shutouts this season, which ranks tied for the most in the league in that span of time.
Chicago has rolled Fleury out for the past seven-straight games and he has a 4-1-2 record with a .927 save-percentage in those seven starts. His trade value is the highest on the team for being a rental player on an expiring deal. There are a good number of teams who believe they are Stanley Cup contenders who could use an elite-level goaltender like Fleury to put them over the top.