On Monday, we published a pair of articles that detailed how the Blackhawks have slowly slid away from the top of the NHL standings to contending — again — for a lottery spot in the 2019 NHL Draft. With the past explained, we turn our attention to the present on Tuesday:
As of Tuesday, the Chicago Blackhawks have 13 forwards on the active roster. But with the team in a state of flux, several of those names likely won’t be around by the start of the 2019-20 season — or even by the trade deadline in February. Let’s examine the Blackhawks present and short-term future for the forwards on the active roster, as detailed by Cap Friendly:
Virtual certainties to remain with the team
Alex DeBrincat: Don’t even think about it. DeBrincat still has another season left on his entry-level contract. A contract worth only $778,333 for a potential 40-goal scorer? We’ll take it.
Dominik Kahun: With Kahun being only 23 years old and having one year remaining on an entry-level deal worth $925,000 annually, he’d be an affordable piece to the puzzle for next season. Unless a trade offer overwhelms GM Stan Bowman, he’s likely staying put.
Patrick Kane: Four seasons remaining on a contract that pays $10.5 million annually, but Kane’s playing at that level this season — arguably the best of his career.
Dylan Strome: Recently acquired, playing well and has one year remaining on an entry-level deal worth just more than $863k per season. No reason to move Strome.
Jonathan Toews: Same deal as Kane and the captain is having a bounce-back season. His future remains with this team.
Question marks and expiring contracts
Drake Caggiula: He’s played only eight games in Chicago and has just one point, but he had to be doing something right if coach Jeremy Colliton put him on a line with Kane and Toews. It’s hard to imagine the Blackhawks trading away a player they acquired one month ago, but Caggiula is already 24 years old. So if the Blackhawks received a tempting offer, Caggiula could be sent to his third team this season. He’s under contract through 2020 at an affordable $1.5 million annually.
David Kampf: A restricted free agent after the season, but seems like a logical fit to return to the team on a cheap contract while dutifully handling a bottom-six role once again.
Brendan Perlini: There have been flashes from Perlini but the numbers don’t lie: in 23 games, he has just three goals and one assist, averaging only 9:56 of ice time per game. It’s looking like he won’t live up to the billing of a first-round pick already. Perlini is a restricted free agent after this season, but will he do enough to warrant a return to the team?
Brandon Saad: He has two more years remaining on a deal worth $6 million annually, and Saad is enjoying a bit of a rebound performance after a dismal 2017-18 season. But Saad’s contributions still aren’t quite living up to what he produced in his first stint with the Blackhawks. Last summer, the Carolina Hurricanes reportedly wanted Saad in exchange for Justin Faulk, a top-four defenseman, which Chicago desperately needs. If a similar offer comes calling, with Saad still falling a touch shy of the standard he set earlier this decade, would Bowman be willing to listen? It can’t be ruled out.
Artem Anisimov: The hardest parts of this move would be convincing Anisimov to waive his no-movement clause and to find a team willing to eat two more seasons of $4.55 million annually. Finding equal value may not be as important as finding any team to take this contract off Chicago’s books. With Anisimov turning 31 this May and not possessing the type of speed that the current version of the NHL desires, moving him would be a major plus — if the Hawks can find a buyer.
John Hayden: Reports have already surfaced that Hayden is being watched by some of the playoff contending teams, moving him into this section. Hayden’s under contract at $750,000 for one more season, a cheap contract that would fit into virtually every team’s budgets. In 35 games, though, Hayden has only two goals and one assist, which questions how much value Hayden would have on the trade market. But if the Hawks find a team willing to bank on the development of a 23-year-old forward, Hayden may end up in a different sweater by the end of February.
Chris Kunitz: If a team is looking for a veteran presence in the dressing room, Kunitz’s four Stanley Cup rings could provide that. But with Kunitz already nearing retirement and his Cup dreams fulfilled, he may not be as anxious to waive his no-movement clause as others.
Marcus Kruger: Also has a no-movement clause but with an expiring contract, the 28-year-old center could be an attractive piece for a Cup-contending team in need of an effective shutdown center. And if he’s not traded, Kruger’s salary demands may be too much to consider him as a member of the 2019-20 Blackhawks.
A quick note on the idea of trading Patrick Kane
Two recent articles in the Blackhawks blogosphere floated the idea of trading Kane as part of a complete rebuild. While there is logic to this notion, the major issue comes in acquiring adequate value for someone as important to the Hawks as Kane. Trading away a proven superstar talent — who could have multiple seasons of all-star play left in the tank — for pieces that hopefully reach a similar level is a dicey proposition. As long as Kane is playing this well, it’s hard to imagine the Hawks moving Kane because it’d be virtually impossible to get a worthwhile return.