Blackhawks RFA Hunting: 3 Potential Trade Targets
With all of the Blackhawks’ cap space for the coming season, they have to spend some money to get to the salary floor. And the knowledge that Connor Bedard is coming to town has already opened the door for general manager Kyle Davidson to acknowledge moving some of his picks is possible (though he said that in the context of moving up in the draft).
This summer’s unrestricted free agent class isn’t great; I’m not getting in line to overpay Michael Bunting. And the Blackhawks are looking for shorter term deals as they begin to integrate the next wave of players into the NHL roster.
The list of restricted free agents this summer has a lot more appeal than the UFA market, a list headlined by the likes of Jesper Bratt, Timo Meier, Trevor Zegras, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Alex DeBrincat. But obviously those players would need to be acquired somehow; it’s going to cost something to get the right to spend money to retain them.
Add to that list the reality that some teams out there are looking at a summer with limited cap space and bloated rosters that might make a few intriguing names available. So there’s an opportunity for the Blackhawks to go shopping with their truckload of picks and maybe add a young player or two to buy them time for their crop of forwards selected last year and this summer to develop while helping Bedard and Lukas Reichel succeed early in their NHL careers.
With that in mind, here are a three pending restricted free agents on other teams that might make sense for the Blackhawks to inquire regarding as we get closer to the draft.
Yegor Sharangovich, RW, New Jersey Devils
Age: turns 25 on June 6
2022-23 Season: 75 games, 13 goals, 17 assists, 30 points
2022-23 Salary Cap Hit: $2.0 million
Sharangovich was originally a fifth-round pick by the Devils in the 2018 NHL Draft and was a star in Belarus before coming to North America, where he started with two impressive, improving seasons in the AHL. He finished fourth in rookie scoring during the 2020-21 campaign and followed that up with a 24-goal season in 2021-21. His numbers fell of this past season, which is where this name becomes an interesting one for the Blackhawks to consider. In a recent radio interview on Sportsnet 590, Elliotte Friedman noted Sharangovich’s name came up around the trade deadline and that his potential availability could be tied to fears about his arbitration award.
According to CapFriendly, New Jersey has $49,217,500 committed to only 12 players. Their offseason priorities are to re-sign Bratt and Meier, both of whom will likely command north of $8 million per season. After that, they’re going to have to make some tough decisions to fill out the rest of their roster. And there’s a chance Sharangovich could be had at the right price. The Devils do not have a first or third round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft.
Ross Colton, LW, Tampa Bay Lightning
Age: turns 27 on Sept. 11
2022-23 Season: 81 games, 16 goals, 16 assists, 32 points
2022-23 Salary Cap Hit: $1.125 million
Colton is another late-round pick (fourth-round in 2016) who has performed well in the NHL with a team that’s in a bit of a financial bind this summer. Well, Tampa’s been moving dollars around magically for a few years now, but it’s going to be especially tight this summer. CapFriendly has the Bolts at $1.6 million in available cap space with 16 players on their NHL roster. Obviously something has to give.
Averaging just 12:21 per game, Colton finished second on the Lightning with 188 hits. He scored 22 goals in 79 games during the 2021-22 season, so there’s some offensive ability there and he’s been a part of a championship organization since turning pro in 2018. The Blackhawks have benefitted from the addition of Taylor Raddysh, so why not make another phone call to Tampa this summer? The Lightning don’t have a single draft pick before the fifth round this summer because of trades; Chicago already owns their first- and second-round picks this year.
Oliver Wahlstrom, RW, New York Islanders
Age: turns 23 on June 13
2022-23 Season: 35 games, 7 goals, 9 assists, 16 points
2022-23 Salary Cap Hit: $894,167
From a draft placement perspective, Wahlstrom is the polar opposite of the first two names on my list. He was the 11th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft and was considered one of the best pure scorers in that class. But he struggled through a freshman season at Boston College that saw him score only eight times in 36 games before turning pro. He spent a lot of time in Barry Trotz’s doghouse while Trotz was the head coach of the Islanders and his 2022-23 season was cut short prematurely because of a knee injury suffered in December.
Here’s the problem for the Islanders: after acquiring Bo Horvat before the deadline, they now have a roster full of expensive veterans. Horvat and the new deal for Matthew Barzal will hit the books for almost $18 million in combined cap space alone, and Anders Lee is at $7 million for three more years. CapFriendly shows the Islanders having roughly $5.3 million in cap space committed to 20 skaters without a backup goaltender on the NHL roster. And after acquiring Horvat, the Isles do not have picks in the first or third rounds this summer. Wahlstrom might be a good candidate to buy as a reclamation project coming off an injury with a bridge deal at a modest cost, even if the Isles were once incredibly high on him; his name was linked to Jakob Chychrun rumors last summer. He has 32 goals in 161 NHL games on his resume right now.