Nobody expected the Chicago Blackhawks to be in the position that they’re in. At the beginning of the month, the team had a 55 percent chance to make the playoffs. With five games remaining this month they now have a 24 percent chance. despite the drastic drop in the team’s play they still have a decent shot to rebound and make a push for the playoffs. The league’s trade deadline is almost three weeks away. Some teams’ lineups are set where they are. For the Blackhawks, however, they might benefit from the services of another asset from around the league. Today we’ll look at some enticing targets from around the league that Stan Bowman should consider acquiring.
How the Chicago Blackhawks Should Handle the Trade Deadline
Should They be Sellers?
By the time the deadline rolls around, each team, typically, knows whether or not they are buying or selling at the deadline. For Chicago, however, that question is still being contemplated. The good news is that they won’t see the Tampa Bay Lightning as often as they did during the month of March, which certainly helps their playoff chances. If they continue to slip up and move lower in the Central Division standings, being a seller wouldn’t be terrible. As they stand right now, however, selling off assets in order to slowly start preparing for the offseason and the draft wouldn’t be ideal.
Chicago is currently fourth in the Central Division just ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus isn’t a significantly better team than Chicago, which is something they can’t take advantage of in the weeks ahead. Behind Columbus are the Nashville Predators who are having a much tougher season. Nashville sits four points behind Chicago and Columbus and currently holds a .453 winning percentage. For Chicago to be a seller this deadline would benefit other bubble teams more than it would Chicago. So, to answer the question: No, they should not be sellers this deadline.
Trade Target One: Mattias Ekholm
The Nashville Predators have been on their way out of dominance for a few seasons. Goaltender Pekka Rinne used to be the best part of their roster, and then he fell off. Their defensive game was always strong. P.K. Subban and Roman Josi won the Norris Trophy as members of the Predators, and Shea Weber played some of his best hockey for them. But the most impressive part of their defensive game wasn’t their star, top-line defencemen. Sure Josi is one of the best defenders in the league, but he can’t do it all. Their top defender’s complements and depth pieces were always just as effective. Enter Mattias Ekholm. Ekholm has been a top-four defender in Nashville for eight seasons. He’s a great two-way defenceman with a greater offensive skillset in his tool belt. He’s a 40 point threat from the blue line and awesome power play addition for Nashville.
Stan Bowman has stated recently that he isn’t looking for rental players to get them into the playoffs this deadline. If he’s going to make a move, it’ll be for someone he feels will help the team get back to its former glory in two years’ time. Ekholm holds a $3.75 million cap hit through July of 2022, meaning he’d be in Chicago at least one more season. That window gives Bowman ample time to extend his tenure further with the club. Nashville is at a stage in their progression where they need to really consider tearing things down. Getting rid of a highly valuable asset that Ekholm is and getting draft stock and equivalent prospects in return would be ideal and is something Chicago would easily be able to do given their abundance of defensive prospects. With Brent Seabrook gone and Calvin de Haan likely being exposed at the expansion draft, Ekholm would make the most sense for the team to target for their defence. He has a successful history and playoff experience too if that is something Bowman values this deadline. Adding Ekholm could be one of the better Blackhawks trade deadline moves.
Trade Target Two: Any Bad Contract
This may seem odd as a Blackhawks trade deadline deal. But for the first time in a long while, the Blackhawks have cap space to play with. Sure, most of the room is due to their LTIR contracts which include Seabook, Zack Smith, Jonathan Toews, Andrew Shaw, and a few other lesser valued contracts. It adds up to roughly $26 million in cap space going into the deadline. Bowman wants to use the deadline to build for the future Blackhawks, not the now. What better way than to take on a bad contract and force the other team to throw in a first-rounder or a top-level prospect. In some cases, Bowman might be able to finagle getting a first-round draft pick and a top-level prospect.
An easy example could be Loui Eriksson from the Vancouver Canucks. He eats up just under $5 million through July 2022, and there’s a decent chance Jim Benning would love to get rid of the contract. Leverage for Stan Bowman could be the team’s first-round pick in this summer’s draft, likely a lottery pick. Another contract could be Buffalo Sabres‘ forward Kyle Okposo. With $6 million a year for the next three seasons, Buffalo could benefit heavily from dumping him off. Similar to the Canucks, Buffalo is in the running for the draft lottery this season and likely next season too. Bowman could take on Okposo’s contract while also bringing in a first-round pick or one of their top prospects, potentially Jack Quinn. The list of potential bad contracts and draft picks or prospects goes on. With the room on their books that Chicago has, it could be a realistic option in building the future for the Blackhawks.
Trade Target Three: Adrian Kempe
The final Blackhawks trade deadline target we look at is Adrian Kempe. Kempe is a peculiar name to see on this list. The Los Angeles Kings are in the middle of a rebuild and are likely on their way out of it as early as next season. Kempe is 24 and is on track to have his best season with a 50 point pace over 82 games. Needless to say, he’s having a breakout season. Factor in the young talent that the Kings have brewing in their development system, Quinton Byfield, Alex Turcotte, and more. To trade away Adrian Kempe when he’s finally finding his bearings for the Kings might be a bad move for them, but consider Chicago’s assets. There are more than plenty of forward prospects that have an equal ceiling to Kempe. There’s blockbuster potential with this potential target, and that’s something Chicago could benefit from. Kempe is also a proven, and still young, NHL talent. This is something Chicago’s young and energetic, while still slightly inexperienced, roster could use to return to their former glory.