When the Blackhawks made their late night trade with Vancouver on Friday to move Riley Stillman out, the headline was easy. It cost the Canucks a second-round pick to buy $1.3M in cap space this season.
But the Blackhawks also acquired a veteran forward, Jason Dickinson, in that deal.
As we noted in our story after the deal was announced, Dickinson was selected by the Dallas Stars with the pick immediately before the Blackhawks drafted Ryan Hartman in 2013. His first round selection indicates that, at some point, scouts saw something in his game that warranted a great deal of respect and interest.
Since then, he’s become a bottom-six forward. Not ideal for a first-round pick, but he’s still been a valuable forward in the NHL. And Blackhawks fans should know him fairly well from his time with the Stars.
He spent parts of six seasons with Dallas, although one of those was a single game appearance in 2015-16 and ten games the following season. So really we’re talking about a four-year span that he was part of the Stars’ lineup.
I dug into his numbers from the final three years he spent in Dallas because he was a solid-enough player to earn a three-year contract from the Canucks that carries a noticeable $2.65M cap hit.
Between the start of the 2018-19 season and the end of the 2020-21 season (the end of his time in Dallas and, yes, a pandemic-shortened season), Dickinson appeared in 183 games and averaged 14:44 per game for the Stars.
Over that span, Dickinson ranked second on the Stars with 104 takeaways (2.33 per 60 minutes, which was the best on Dallas’ roster with more than four games played). He also ranked second among Stars forwards with 154 blocked shots, one behind Jamie Benn; he also led their squad in takeaways but at a lower per 60 rate than Dickinson in both categories because he obviously skated much higher minutes than Dickinson.
His 273 hits ranked fourth among Stars forward over that stretch, and the three forwards who had more than him skated more minutes (again).
He’s a physical player who plays the defensive end of the ice well. However, Dickinson underwhelmed in Vancouver last year, which is why his cap hit became the most obvious potential cap casualty when the Canucks started looking to maneuver their way under the ceiling this year.
Dickinson in a bottom-six role with guys like Sam Lafferty and Colin Blackwell will help the Blackhawks be tougher to play against. He isn’t going to generate much offense — he has 30 goals in 283 regular season games on the back of his hockey card — but that’s not a role the Blackhawks will likely use him in this year.
This was a savvy move by Davidson to not only land a second-round pick from Vancouver but also add precisely the type of depth/role player he targeted early in his tenure as general manager. Remember: he acquired and then extended Lafferty and signed Blackwell in free agency this summer.
Indeed, Dickinson is a good comp I considered when watching Josiah Slavin play with the Blackhawks last year and during training camp. Slavin may ultimately be a better faceoff guy than Dickinson, but the approach to being a tough-to-play-against fourth line center is a role Slavin could thrive in for Chicago.
Last year when the Blackhawks started selling, Davidson was able to get a fifth-round pick from Calgary for Ryan Carpenter because guys who play this role have value to teams that are going for it. Now, I’m not saying a potential trade of Dickinson would be a straight apples-to-apples comparison for Davidson because Carpenter was in a walk-year and was significantly cheaper than Dickinson. But that doesn’t remove the possibility that a team looking for a guy to do a solid job on their fourth line wouldn’t be intrigued by Dickinson (especially if the Blackhawks are willing to eat salary) in the next year or so.