MONTREAL — The Chicago Blackhawks dominated the headlines following the first night of the NHL Draft. And the transactions made in Montreal could signal the end of Patrick Kane’s time in the Windy City.
Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach were both dealt Thursday night, and the club is not expected to qualify pending-restricted free agent Dylan Strome.
By getting rid of young players like DeBrincat and Dach, general manager Kyle Davidson is signaling his intent to the rest of the league: The time to contend is over for the Blackhawks.
And the time to tank is now.
With the team going in a different direction, it makes sense to look at the possibility of dealing Kane, something once thought unthinkable. Arguably the best player in Blackhawks history, Kane is an excellent player and still has gas in the tank at 33.
This might have been the biggest storyline to emerge from the draft, so let’s unpack the pros and cons of trading a player who is currently No. 8 on the NHL’s active goal leader list, plus a few storylines to watch as free agency approaches on July 13.
Pros and Cons Trading Kane
Kane has one year left on his contract with a $10.5 million cap hit and a full no-movement clause. In addition to having to agree on waiving his no-movement protection, the Blackhawks would likely have to agree to eat salary. That’s not a palatable cap hit when the salary ceiling is only going up by $1 million.
Davidson, who was named the interim GM after Stan Bowman stepped down last season amid the fallout from the sexual assault scandal, said he would like to keep Kane and captain Jonathan Toews around to help mentor the young players the organization is bringing in during the rebuild. They don’t want to let the culture get out of control.
Plus, fans could turn on them if the last two remaining players from the Stanley Cup teams are moved.
“I think there is value in having guys like that that can help mold and set the bar and set the example for younger players coming in,” Davidson said. “But it’s a two-way street and they have to want to be a part of that.”
At 34, Toews’ play has significantly declined over the last few seasons. His value is much lower than Kane’s, who is still the same speedy, high-scoring winger he was when he was helping Chicago win Stanley Cup championships. Being 33 and at the end of his contract might make him as appealing, would be an asset for any team, especially for one with postseason aspirations.
Davidson should be motivated to attempt a trade given how strong the 2023 draft class is expected to be. But as he said, ultimately it’s up to Kane. As of Thursday, he had not made a decision.
The ‘Chaotic’ Goalie Market
Backup goalies played musical chairs at the draft with three of them moving teams. It’s a game of musical chairs but there may not be enough chairs to go around. A lot of teams need goaltending and with Marc-Andre Fleury returning to the Minnesota Wild, the options are limited.
“I think if you line it up and you look and kind of pay attention to what teams are thinking, it’s a little chaotic and scrambly,” Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said. “You’ve got to be constantly monitoring it and seeing what’s happening.”
The New Jersey Devils were monitoring it well in advance of Montreal. They traded for Caps backup Vitek Vanacek to tandem him with Mackenzie Blackwood. Goaltending has been an Achilles heel for the Devils almost since Martin Brodeur left town. Cory Schneider’s best years came when the club was beginning its rebuild. Corey Crawford’s sudden retirement, Jonathan Bernier’s hip surgery and Blackwood’s heel injury upended their plans the last two seasons, and their .881 save percentage this past year was the second-worst in the league.
New Jersey is determined to get back to the postseason in the near future and they know they won’t get there with that kind of goaltending, so general manager Tom Fitzgerald dove into the market, unwilling to wait it out.
“I just personally feel like we should wait,” Fitzgerald said. “I just really wanted to lock the position up and feel comfortable so tonight I can sleep.”
But there are still many other teams looking to solidify their goaltending situations. The New York Rangers need to replace backup goalie Alexandar Georgiev. The Toronto Maple Leafs may need to replace Jack Campbell. The Buffalo Sabres signed Craig Anderson to a one-year deal, but they know he isn’t the answer long-term, but GM Kevyn Adams is taking the opposite approach of Fitzgerald and staying patient.
“You can get emotional or you can make quick decisions and I don’t think that’s how we want to run our business,” Adams said. “I think we want to be disciplined in what we do. we want to be intentional in how we do things. We want to have players who want to be here for the right reasons. As we get into the next phase of this offseason we’ll look at all options, which we will continue to do right through, but feel good about where we’re at.”
he Johnny G. Sweepstakes Begin
The marquee free agent on the market this summer is Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau. There has been a lot of speculation that Gaudreau might have an interest in testing free agency, but GM Brad Treliving said both sides are motivated to get a deal done. Free agency opens up in only a few days, so failing to sign him before July 13 means risking a market opening up for him.
Treliving is hoping that it doesn’t get to that point, but remains optimistic that Gaudreau will be back in Calgary next season.
“There’s a process to it,” he said. “What I’ve found in our business is that deadlines push decisions. We’re creeping up on one. But I genuinely think that everybody’s heart’s in the right place. We want to get the player signed. He wants to be in Calgary. But they’re big decisions. They’re life decisions. If he doesn’t sign with us, he’s earned the opportunity to look at the market. That’s something he’s got to consider.
“For us, it’s just trying to get our player signed.”
The clock is ticking for the Flames to get it done. If Gaudreau reaches free agency, the Flyers and Devils have cited as possible destinations.
Tony D Goes Home
Polarizing defenseman Tony DeAngelo will join his fourth NHL team next season, and this time it’s his home team. The South Jersey native who grew up just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia was traded to the Flyers for three draft picks Friday morning. The Carolina Hurricanes were unable to come to terms with the arbitration-eligible restricted free agent.
He comes with a long history of behavioral issues, but general manager Chuck Fletcher believes he has matured and that the issues are behind him.
“From everything we can gather and speaking with (Carolina GM) Donny Waddell, speaking with some of the Carolina players, speaking with other people around the league, it seems like he’s really worked hard the last year and a half to change his ways,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said. “He’s older, he’s maturing and from all accounts he did a good job both on and off the ice last season.”
Brad Marchand might disagree with that, but the Flyers needed a right-shot defenseman and they found one in DeAngelo. Nevertheless, it’s a risk that Fletcher has taken by acquiring the 26-year-old.
DeAngelo mostly kept out of the headlines while playing in Carolina, but that was as a pending free agent looking to cash in. Plus, the thought of having DeAngelo play for one of the sternest coaches in the game in John Tortorella makes this entire situation fascinating to watch.