Scoop: The question seems to be ‘when’ and not ‘if’ the Hawks will move the two-time 40-goal scorer. Is it this summer, or before next season’s trade deadline? If it seems odd that the rebuilding Blackhawks would want to move a sniper just hitting his prime with more goals than Nathan MacKinnon and Brad Marchand over the last four seasons, consider these three points: 1) DeBrincat is Chicago’s best trade chip to begin stockpiling future assets; 2) By the time Chicago gets to where it wants, he will be middle-aged by NHL standards; 3) With a $9 million qualifying offer due at the end of next season, they’d need to pay big to keep him on what should be a struggling squad.
As much as it pains me to say...trading Debrincat is the right move. I have actually been saying that for months now. The reality of the Blackhawks roster and prospect pool is very dire. The organization simply doesn't have anything in the cupboard to build around in earnest. I am still hopefully that Dach will turn into that 55 point two way center. I think Reichel looks like he could be a nice player. They just don't have much else and the Blackhawks need to be bad next year in order to get a truly transformational type player in the 2023 draft (Bedard or Fantelli). Removing Debrincat will absolutely make you worse and give you more lottery balls.
Debrincat has another year on his deal at $6.4M and that is a bargain for a guy scoring 40 goals. The next year...it won't be a bargain. His QO is $9M and he would likely sign a free agent deal north of $10M. That just doesn't help the Blackhawks get better.
Now, I don't have any idea of what the market for Debrincat is right now. It should be high. He isn't just a sniper. He plays a complete game and competes his ass off. He deserves to be on a playoff team.
Deserves to be...but doesn't have to be. Unlike Toews and Kane, Debrincat has no clauses in his contract that prevent him from being dealt somewhere "undesirable".
If I were in charge I think the teams I'd be calling would be LA Kings, NJ Devils, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings and the Anaheim Ducks. Those are all teams that are trending in the right direction as of the end of 2021-22 season, would have the cap space required to sign Debrincat long term, and might feel like a 24 year-old "veteran" with 307 career points is the guy they need to get them over that next hurdle. All of those teams also have attractive assets both with picks and prospects currently in the pool. Would NJ give up the #2 pick and Alex Holtz? Would LA give up Turcotte and a 1st? I don't know, but those are conversations that Kyle Davidson is probably already having. Davidson did see in the media a few weeks ago (might've been months at this point, time doesn't feel real anymore) that he wants to find a way to get back into the 1st round of this coming NHL Draft. A prospect who would probably be ready for NHL action on a bad Chicago team and a 1st round pick this year would go a long way towards speeding up that rebuild.
All of this news breaking on the 12th anniversary of this
while Panarin is playing in Game 5 of the ECF tonight
…it all really stings, but it doesn't change Davidson's job, which is to build a winner.
I am the guy who said in April 2017 after the Blackhawks got swept that they should trade Panarin. Trading Panarin wasn't the wrong idea, but the execution of that trade was HORRENDOUS and inexcusable. They should've flipped Panarin for futures so they could be a highly competitive team NOW with young guys and Toews and Kane on the last years of their deal.
And ultimately that is the biggest and scariest question about trading 12…what will 88 think? Will he buy into the plan? I don't know. I want him here forever. He might look around that locker room at 5th/3rd Arena with no Debrincat and decide he'd have more fun playing down the street at Johnies A division. This could trigger them approving trades. I don't think Toews is going anywhere simply because I don't think there's a real market for him right now even if the Hawks retained 50%. He's more valuable in Chicago because of the history than he is anywhere else. I hope they both stay and sign extensions and have one more good run when they're 36, but even I know that is probably a pipe dream.
We are walking into one last midnight here. Even if the prudent thing is to move on…I won't be ready even if I know it's coming.