The Chicago Blackhawks may have a better idea of their starting lineup for the 2025-26 season opener than they did for the Oct. 12 opener at the Colorado Avalanche.
Perhaps a bit of a stretch, but with any luck, 2022 first-round picks Kevin Korchinski, Frank Nazar and Sam Rinzel will all be in that future lineup.
“Coming in today (Thursday), if you thought we’d add Kevin Korchinski, Sam Rinzel and Frank Nazar, I wouldn’t have believed you,” general manager Kyle Davidson said on draft night in Montreal. “Sitting where we are now with the prospects we just picked up, I’m pretty happy.”
“It’s hard to trade any young player, especially young contributors like we did today, it’s not easy,” Davidson said.
With their leading scorer in DeBrincat gone, there’s little reason to bring back linemate Dylan Strome, a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, or fellow RFA Dominik Kubalík, for that matter. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews could be weighing whether they want to stay for the takedown.
If last season’s 28-42-12 campaign was a drain on the three-time Stanley Cup-winning duo, this season could leave them feeling empty.
Anyone else is fair game, particularly veterans (Tyler Johnson? Jake McCabe?) Davidson could ship contenders before next year’s trade deadline.
“Going through a rebuild is not fun. Doing the things you have to do to get where you want to go is not fun,” Davidson said. “So there are going to be tough days like this where you’re going to see familiar faces and faces that we in management and the fans know and love, but it’s necessary.”
“It’s about the process. It is our job to make sure that the assets we bring make the right decision and justify it.”
That’s the objection many fans had (based on social media buzz) with Davidson’s game on draft day, at least in DeBrincat’s case.
But Davidson defended his move.
“I felt like this was his peak value today,” he said. “I didn’t feel the need to do it, but when we got a top 10 pick at the table, I thought it was something that, if we could build a package around that, I thought it was really important to do. The value of those top 10 picks is much more valuable and excellent than multiple picks later in the first round.”
Rebuilt or not, giving up a 24-year-old All-Star winger for the seventh overall pick (Korchinski), a second-round pick on Friday, and a 2024 third-rounder feels as disappointing as Brandon Hagel’s Booty – two conditional first-round picks in 2023 and 2024 and two Tampa Bay Lighting prospects – felt pleasantly impressive.
In fact, when you step back, the DeBrincat trade looks even worse.
When the dust settled, the Hawks essentially traded DeBrincat for defenseman Seth Jones, moving down a spot in the first round to do it.
Maybe it’s a bit of a simplification, but the jones deal with the blue jackets of Columbus on draft day a year ago for multiple high-round picks by the Hawks created a ripple effect that contributed greatly to DeBrincat’s departure, a case of GM negligence on the part of Stan Bowman.
Bowman mortgaged the future of a player he couldn’t pass up.
“You’re trying to put yourself in a position where when a player of Seth’s caliber and ability becomes available, you’re in a position of, #1, having the assets that would be needed, and #2, having the cap space to be able to do it,” Bowman said on draft night last year.
“Not very often those things always line up. There is a lot of luck at the moment”.
It doesn’t feel so lucky in hindsight, and the void Bowman created couldn’t be more unwelcome.
The addition of Jones, along with a couple of other acquisitions last summer, not only didn’t help push the Hawks into playoff contention, but Bowman’s hasty reorganization attempt backfired and created the impetus for Davidson to the Hawks will start a rebuild.
In the final count, the Hawks gave up DeBrincat, Adam Boqvist, the 12th pick in the 2021 draft (which became Cole Sillinger), the 44th pick in 2021 (Aleksi Heimosalmi), and this year’s No. 6 pick ( David Jiříček).
In return, the Hawks signed Jones, the 32nd pick in 2021 (Nolan Allan), the 7th (Korchinski) and 39th (Paul Ludwinski) picks this year and a 2024 third-round pick.
If Davidson convinced two conditional first-rounders from Tampa Bay in Hagel’s package, surely DeBrincat would get a king’s ransom, right?
What the Hawks received, however, was not that.
The first-time GM came off as if he had played a smart and patient hand of poker in the Hagel deal, but he appears to have backed out on this one.
Davidson said earlier this year that “it would be nice” to get a first-round pick back, but “we are not going to force anything.”
Does trading DeBrincat for a No. 1 and No. 2 in a regular draft, along with a distant third round, sound forced?
The Hawks could say their hands were tied because a trade partner would have to have the present and future cap space to handle a monster extension for DeBrincat, but that kind of reasoning sounds like you’re trying to force something.
And you can draw a straight line from Bowman’s misbehavior last summer to Davidson’s desperation in this draft.
What’s so puzzling is that the Hawks didn’t acquire one of the Senators’ most prized prospects, like defenseman Jake Sanderson or center Ridly Greig, who ranked second and 18th on the list of top 50 prospects affiliated with TSN scouting director Craig Button’s NHL in April. .
“Ottawa to me (has a) great prospect group,” Button said on TSN.ca. “You talk about Tim Stutzle and Josh Norris as your two main midfielders. Ridly Greig is an outstanding third-row centre-back.”
Davidson said the Hawks “considered” acquiring prospects but ultimately opted out.
“We didn’t really push too hard because his second (round) was pretty high,” he said. “That’s why we’re leaning toward that second pick so we can put our own stamp and our own philosophy on that player.”
Davidson also didn’t resist a first- or second-round pick in 2023, widely considered to possess a better pool of talent than this year.
Hawks director of amateur scouting Mike Doneghey told the Tribune Last week, this year’s draft is “deficient in the number of franchises or generational players.”
“There are some good players,” Doneghey said. “I don’t know if there can be defining franchise players right now, I mean (Cale) Makars, (Nathan) MacKinnons, Patrick Kanes.”
Next year’s draft appears to have a deeper talent pool.
Doneghey looks to Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli and Matvei Michkov as obvious franchise players at the top of the 2023 draft and hopes a few others will make their way into the conversation.
For the 25th pick, which the Hawks used to draft Rinzel, all Davidson gave up was a second round (38th overall) and the space to take on goaltender Petr Mrázek’s salary, giving the Toronto Maple Leafs the relief they needed in the salary cap.
And the Hawks don’t have to enter free agency to find a starting goalkeeper.
But Davidson appears to have gotten the better of the Dach trade.
Getting the 13th and 66th overall picks for the former 2019 No. 3 pick somehow feels like a steal given Dach’s lackluster start to his career.
Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes said he looked within the Hawks organization and around the league and delved into Dach’s game and character, “and we were comfortable with everything we heard.”
Well, now it’s Hughes’s headache. He maybe he thinks matchups are overrated.
Still, there is a void that DeBrincat and Dach will leave in the Hawks’ locker room.
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first year coach lucas richardson he’s trying to bring order to a team that lost its greatest offensive weapon and a well-respected teammate in DeBrincat, who was selfless enough to take the penalty when asked.
Toews complained about the direction of the Hawks when they traded Hagel, so you can only imagine their reaction to this development.
Even Kane has to wonder if it’s worth staying in Chicago to endure this dismantling.
TSN analyst Pierre LeBrun asked agent Pat Brisson about Kane, but Brisson said “they’re not going to make any decisions or comments at this time.”
Bottom line: The Hawks’ decisions, past and present, put a lot of pressure on their 2022 rookie class to make it work. That is at least.
The hockey world will count how much the Hawks gained in the long run by giving up DeBrincat, Dach and cap space and judge whether the Hawks should have demanded more.
Make it make sense.