As we continue the long walk toward the NHL’s trade deadline, one name that has emerged as one of the more intriguing on the market is Blackhawks forward Sam Lafferty.
Lafferty, who turns 28 on March 6, has already established his career marks in goals (9), assists (11) and points (20). Those aren’t gaudy numbers, but he’s still generating a lot of interest. In fact, the Blackhawks have received enough calls on their bottom-six ace that he’s climbing the rankings of those who monitor the market.
Frank Seravalli at The Daily Faceoff updated his big board of trade candidates on Thursday and now has Lafferty at No. 12 — one spot behind Jonathan Toews. Here’s part of what he said about Lafferty on the market:
The interest Lafferty has generated has been significant for Chicago. Teams have said the asking price is believed to be a second-round pick now… his elite speed has turned heads – particularly on the penalty kill, where Lafferty has scored three shorthanded goals. That’s one off the league-lead, second only to Vegas’ Reilly Smith.
Speed for days sells in the NHL right now, and Lafferty has that. If general manager Kyle Davidson could turn a busted reclamation project (Alex Nylander) into a second-round pick that would truly be some sort of sorcery. And even though I love everything Lafferty brings to the table, that’s a tough return to deny.
Lafferty has one more year left on his contract that carries a $1.15 million cap hit. So the control a team would have at a low number is incredibly attractive with the cap likely only going up $1 million next year.
Of all the players Davidson has acquired since becoming the general manager last season, nobody has taken advantage of his opportunity as well as Lafferty. He’s winning 52.8 percent of his faceoffs this season, a great number for a team looking for someone who can help a penalty kill and also contribute offensively in a bottom-six role. When you add that he’s won 56.7 percent of his 180 defensive zone faceoffs, that is more impressive considering his role.
According to Natural Stat Trick, Lafferty leads the Blackhawks with six rush attempts at 5-on-5 play this season, and he is tied for fourth on the team with 14 even-strength points. I fact, he has only four fewer even-strength points than Patrick Kane in more than 200 fewer 5-on-5 minutes.
The number sucks because the Blackhawks aren’t good offensively, but Lafferty leads all regular Chicago forwards with 46 percent of the shots attempted while he’s on the ice at even strength. And the only Blackhawks forwards who average more 5-on-5 shots per 60 minutes than Lafferty (6.17) are Kane, Andreas Athanasiou and Philipp Kurashev.
Lafferty has also been credited with 84 hits, 22 takeaways and 18 blocked shots this season. He plays an aggressive, fast game that’s a pain in the ass to play against. And, when we look at how teams win championships, that’s precisely what they want — need — in their bottom six.
Another strong season could improve his value at the deadline next year if the Blackhawks are in a similar position. Lafferty’s additional year of control and the 2023 draft class having so much hype around its depth might mean getting the pick(s) this summer could prove enough additional value for both the Blackhawks and the team looking to acquire him that a deal happening now makes the most sense.
Which brings us back to the hard question: isn’t Lafferty the kind of player you want to build around? Davidson has to weigh the future value of the assets he might be able to bring back against what Lafferty could mean helping his NHL roster. If he can get the right value, moving Lafferty might be a strong move for the Hawks. But the way he’s played, keeping him is also a strong consideration as the Blackhawks work to transition from this season’s struggles into competitive hockey in the future.