To trade or not to trade, that is the question with Blackhawks' Alex DeBrincat

  • Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat is drawing lots of attention ahead of Thursday's first day of the NHL draft.

    Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat is drawing lots of attention ahead of Thursday's first day of the NHL draft. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 7/6/2022 3:00 PM

Over the past week it seemed inevitable the Blackhawks would trade star winger Alex DeBrincat.

But it's not such a sure thing with the start of the NHL draft on the horizon (Round 1 begins at 6 p.m. Thursday).

 

According to Pierre LeBrun, several teams are putting their best offers for DeBrincat on the table, and it will be up to new Hawks GM Kyle Davidson to decide if any of them are worth accepting.

Last week I tweeted that trading DeBrincat would be a bad move.

The fact is he'll be a 35-45 goal scorer for years and is growing as a leader. These guys don't grow on trees. It's a big risk -- one that isn't worth taking.

It sparked a lively debate, with many followers making great points on both sides.

My thinking is DeBrincat's a guy you build around.

The counter arguments revolved around a few issues:

• DeBrincat could leave via free agency after the 2023-24 season.

• If DeBrincat does sign in Chicago, his cap hit figures to be north of $10 million.

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• Acquiring three, four or even five assets is a more prudent course of action at this time.

These are all valid points.

So, the more I think about it, the tougher a call it may be.

The bottom line is Davidson is in a brutal spot. Former GM Stan Bowman left him with the prospect cupboard all but bare and only a few trade chips with which to work.

The Hawks are likely four to five years from being a serious contender -- and that's if Davidson and his team do everything right.

Knowing that, Davidson should be given a ton of rope. This is going to take time. And patience.

The last thing he should do, however, is to trade DeBrincat for what looks to be a good deal. Or even a great deal.

It needs to be a slam-dunk, we-are-fleecing-the-other-team deal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

You know, like the Brandon Hagel-to-Tampa Bay move where the Hawks received at least one NHL-caliber player and two first-round picks. The return for DeBrincat should be far better.

So if the right offer is made, go for it.

But if it isn't, Davidson should hang tight.

Because when it's all said and done, it's completely plausible DeBrincat is exactly who you want to spearhead a rebuild -- and to be there five, six or seven years from now when the Hawks are again (you hope) a force to reckon with.

Other trade chips

Davidson is also looking to move defenseman Seth Jones and forwards Kirby Dach, Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalilk.

Teams have been kicking the tires on Dach for a few weeks, but the asking price is likely too high for someone with 19 goals in 152 NHL games.

It will be tough to move Jones without the Hawks eating some of his contract (something they'd be loathe to do). It won't be easy to move Strome or Kubalik, since both are restricted free agents who are likely not in the Hawks' plans.

What to watch for

The Blackhawks have eight picks in the draft. None are in the first round, but they do have two second-rounders (Nos. 38 and 57) and three third-rounders (Nos. 81, 90 and 94). It wouldn't be surprising to see Davidson turn one of those third-rounders into a couple of fourth-rounders because the Hawks' next selections are in the sixth round.

The Hawks' pipeline is painfully thin when it comes to wingers, so Davidson should add as many talented goal scorers as possible. All picks are important, but it's imperative the Hawks hit on the second-rounders. It's not an easy task, but there will be plenty of hidden gems and the best GMs find them.

Some examples among forwards from the recent past include: DeBrincat (No. 39 in 2016), Christian Dvorak (No. 58 in 2014), Sebastian Aho (No. 35 in 2015), Roope Hintz (No. 49 in 2015), Jordan Kyrou (No. 35 in 2016) and Jason Robertson (No. 39 in 2017).

Everyone except Dvorak has at least one 25-goal season, with DeBrincat surpassing 40 twice; Aho averaging 34 goals per 82 games; and Robertson (41), Hintz (37) and Kyrou (27) hitting career highs last year.

A few others who are starting to make an impact include: Minnesota's Jordan Greenway (No. 50 in 2015), Nashville's Yakov Trenin (No. 55 in 2015), Calgary's Dillon Dube (No. 56 in 2016) and Ottawa's Alex Formenton (No. 47 in 2017).

It took most of these guys three to five years to grow into roles, however, so don't expect an immediate impact from whomever the Hawks select.

Should be interesting

The first round of the draft has the potential for utter chaos. With no generational talent at the top there is much debate about what will happen. It should make for a fun evening.

Montreal (which is hosting) has the No. 1 overall pick, but don't be surprised if the Canadiens trade down. If they stay put, Montreal figures to take Shane Wright -- a solid if unspectacular player who can be a No. 1 center down the road.

New Jersey sits at No. 2, but the Devils could move up to the top spot or even trade down. The prudent move would be to grab Juraj Slafkovsky, the was MVP of the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Placing the talented winger on a line with Jack Hughes or Nico Hischier will make for some awfully entertaining hockey.

Arizona has three first-round picks, including No. 3 overall. Center Logan Cooley, who racked up 111 points in 75 games in the USHL and USDP, should be the selection.

At No. 4 watch for Seattle to grab defenseman Simon Nemec. Philadelphia, at No. 5, could grab Cutter Gauthier, who scored 53 goals in 76 games last season.

Finally, Blackhawks fans should pay attention to Columbus' pick at No. 6 -- because that's where the Hawks would have selected if they didn't trade for Seth Jones last year.

Rounds 2-7 are Friday, beginning at 10 a.m.

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