It’s unclear how far talks between the Blackhawks and Red Wings have progressed, but Lazerus says that according to two sources, “those calls have been made.” He also says we should take the names with a “grain of salt,” as teams make countless calls at this time of the year and it may not lead to anything. Still, it seems apparent from all the reports and rumors lately that the Blackhawks are moving their wheels trying to uncover the right trade.
Tatar and Nyquist are talented wingers, so they add to a list of rumored possibilities at the position including Gabriel Landeskog, Jarome Iginla, Patrick Sharp, and James van Riemsdyk. We also heard Friday in a report that the team could eye defensemen before the trade deadline, too, opening up some additional possibilities on that front.
With the Red Wings falling out of the playoff picture, the team could try to go into a major rebuild and move some valuable pieces. That could be a good opportunity for the Blackhawks, as it could open the door to landing a solid player in his prime who doesn’t quite fit the Red Wings’ timeline anymore.
Nyquist, 27, has recorded seven goals and 17 assists in 46 games this season. He broke out in 2013-14 with 48 points in 57 games, but settled in by averaging 49 points per 82 games in the two seasons preceding the current one. He’s on a similar pace this season, although his possession numbers have fallen off now that he doesn’t get to play with Pavel Datsyuk.
Tatar is a year younger, and he’s posted a similar line with 10 goals and 12 assists in 46 games this season. Over the previous three seasons, he averaged 23 goals and 24 assists in 79 games per year. He’s also been a consistently fantastic possession player with a career even strength Corsi relative of plus-7.2 percent. That’s even better than, say, Artemi Panarin, who has a career EV Corsi Rel of plus-5.4 percent.
The biggest difference between Nyquist and Tatar is contract status. Nyquist is signed through the 2018-19 season at a cap hit of $4.75 million. Tatar is signed through this season at a cap hit of $2.75 million, then he’ll be a restricted free agent in the offseason. So there’s a little more cost certainty going forward with Nyquist, but Tatar would be easier to afford this season, and his RFA status would give the Hawks some flexibility in the offseason.
All of that could make Tatar a superior player to focus on. He’s the kind of elite possession player who could thrive in the Blackhawks’ system and really help rejuvenate Jonathan Toews. And while he’s not signed long-term, the Hawks wouldn’t have to maneuver much to fit him in right now. They’d also have ability to try to re-sign him or trade him for other assets in the summer as an RFA.
The trickiest part is probably figuring out what to send to the Red Wings. Lazerus says they “may be looking for a defenseman,” so you’d probably have to start talks with Trevor van Riemsdyk, Gustav Forsling, or Ville Pokka, and presumably a lot more than that to complete a deal.
Given neither player is a rental, Detroit could easily hang on to both of them and figure out what to do in the summer. The Hawks would need to give the Wings a compelling reason to move one of those guys now instead. Winging It In Motown suggests the price should start with a first-rounder, which might be a tough price to meet as the Hawks get ready to host the 2017 draft.
Still, consider this an especially interesting option for the Blackhawks. While Lazerus qualified his tweets and we shouldn’t get too ahead of ourselves, acquiring someone like Tatar makes far more sense than an aging player like Sharp or Iginla. It’s one of the more logical, potentially realistic fits we’ve heard so far.