Why the Blackhawks ‘had to make a big change’ to kickstart large-scale rebuilding


MONTREAL — The Blackhawks sent shockwaves through the NHL on Thursday after moving former No. 3 pick Kirby Dach and All-Star sniper Alex DeBrincat in separate deals, and acquiring three first-round picks in the 2022 NHL Draft after starting the day with zero.

The message was loud and clear in Chicago: Reconstruction is officially underway, and it’s about as complete as it gets.

“It was a pretty monumental day and a huge shift in territory for the Blackhawks organization,” general manager Kyle Davidson said after the draft. “But it’s almost the unofficial start of where we’re headed and our ascent there.”

The Blackhawks were looking to jump-start the process by accumulating future assets and were clearly motivated to enter the first round after trading their own pick for Columbus last offseason as part of the Seth Jones package. Obviously, not having a first round is not an ideal way to start a rebuild.

The first and biggest domino to fall was Alex DeBrincat, who was sent to Ottawa in exchange for the 7th overall pick, a first second-round pick and a third-round pick in 2024. probably wasn’t the return they originally were. hoping, but it would still be a challenge for the Blackhawks to get 100 cents on the dollar if the team acquiring DeBrincat didn’t have an immediate extension in place. Ottawa is taking a bit of a bet here by trading for DeBrincat without having the assurance that he will be with the organization long term.

“It just didn’t materialize,” Davidson said of a potential DeBrincat extension with an interested team. “It’s interesting. It’s hard to handicap where teams are going to have a big interest. Not that there wasn’t interest for Alex, but it’s a bit harder to conclude given uncertainty going forward. Even big players have to adapt the cap and upper limits, which has made it a bit difficult for some teams. And most of the league is in a crisis of ceiling.

“There are a very small number of teams that 1) want to add a player and 2) if they want to add a player they want to give you high value assets on the draft board. I’m sure that would have been something we could have done to look for draft picks later in the first round, but we just weren’t interested in. We think it probably would have taken more than two first-round picks to equal the value of a 7. It’s more of a draft value that we calculated more than anything, targeting the teams we made and then trying to chase something.”

While DeBrincat, 24, is a baseline player type, he was the only one without full trade protection on Chicago’s roster that had significant value and could fetch a bigger return. He’s also entitled to a substantial raise, and it makes no sense to start a teardown by doling out long-term contracts with large-cap hits.

Yes, DeBrincat will likely be one of the NHL’s top scorers for the next decade. We cannot deny it. But it was hard to see a path for the Blackhawks to return sooner rather than later without racking up project capital when you look at the current state of the pipeline.

The Blackhawks, objectively, have one of the shallowest farm systems in the league, which is pretty inexcusable for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in a normal season since 2017 and Davidson obviously acknowledges that. Beyond striker Lukas Reichel and possibly goalie Drew Commesso, there aren’t many fundamental-type plays, nor are there enough promising prospects who could become legitimate support roles.

Consider this: Chicago drafted No. 3 Jonathan Toews in 2006 and No. 1 Patrick Kane in 2007, but the then-management group started laying the groundwork long before that. Look in what years other notable franchise icons and key contributors were drafted, then reflect on how long it took them to reach their full potential in the NHL:

  • 2002: Duncan Keith (second round, No. 54 overall)
  • 2003: Brent Seabrook (first round, No. 14 overall); Corey Crawford (second round, No. 52 overall); Dustin Byfuglien (eighth round, No. 245 overall)
  • 2004 : Dave Bolland (second round, No. 32 overall); Bryan Bickell (second round, No. 41 overall); Troy Brouwer (seventh round, No. 214 overall)
  • 2005: Niklas Hjalmarsson (fourth round, No. 108 overall)

In summary, the Blackhawks did not win their first Stanley Cup until 2010, eight years after the draft of Keith, seven years after the draft of Byfuglien, Crawford and Seabrook, six years after the draft of Bickell, Bolland and Brouwer , and five years after Hjalmarsson’s draft. It’s taken time for these players to flourish, which only validates Chicago’s need to start collecting draft picks and begin that development process as soon as possible.

So while the Blackhawks could very well be in contention for a top-3 pick next year and sign a potential franchise-changing player in Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli or Matvei Michkov – all three of whom would have easily been n 1 in this year’s draft, a source says — it will take more than that to piece together a perennial Stanley Cup contender, with or without DeBrincat.

The Blackhawks continued their future asset drive a few hours later by trading Dach to Montreal for the 13th overall pick and acquiring goaltender Petr Mrazek and the 25th overall pick from Toronto in exchange for the 38th overall pick. They used their three first-round selections against puck-moving defenseman Kevin Korchinski, two-way center Frank Nazar and versatile defenseman Sam Rinzel. Speed ​​was the theme.

The Blackhawks also have nine picks on Day 2, including six in the second and third rounds combined. It’s a great start as they seek to restock their farming system, but now the hardest part begins.

“Today was a day that I’m not sure anyone saw coming, necessarily,” Davidson said. “Maybe they did. But it’s still hard to accept, which I understand. But it’s a necessary step that we had to take to put this on the right track and not try to make small adjustments along the way. We had to make a big change. We had to change things.

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