Alex DeBrincat, Kirby Dach ‘shocked’ by trades away from Blackhawks

MONTREAL –Alex DeBrincat saw himself as a Blackhawk.

Since joining the NHL, he always had, and he figured he always would. It was that simple.

“I was ready to be in Chicago for a long time,” DeBrincat said Friday. “That was just the way I thought about it. I’ve never been traded before in any league. I kind of stick to the same teams for the most part.”

Then Thursday came, and suddenly DeBrincat was no longer a Blackhawk but rather a Senator.

Indeed, the trade speculation over recent weeks, leading up to the deal that shipped the 24-year-old forward to Ottawa for three draft picks (including seventh overall), blindsided DeBrincat just as much as everyone else.

“The immediatereactionwas just shock,” he said. “I saw some rumors and stuff, but until it actually happens, it doesn’t really hit you.”

Just three hours later, Kirby Dach –who didn’t even have the benefit of being desensitized by rumors in recent weeks, as his name wasn’t discussed whatsoever until Thursday — felt the exact same emotion.

He barely had time to process the news before NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced at the draft Dach’s move to the Canadiens for two more picks, including 13th overall.

“I got the phone call five minutes before it was announced,” Dach said Friday. “I was actually on my way into the rink to go skate. It was a bit shocking.

“There was always those things about ‘Cat’…that he was [being] shopped around. But I didn’t really hear my name until the middle of summer. We knew we were going into a rebuild — they were very open and honest with us about that — and obviously they felt like they needed to go in a different direction with ‘Cat’ and I. It’s a business, there’s nothing else to it. You’ve just got to move on.”

Dach accurately described his three-year Hawks tenure as full of “ups and downs,” and it makes sense that a change of scenery could help him.

A fresh start with fans supporting him and greater wisdom about how to approach the game could help him finally translate his diverse skills into consistent, impactful play. He called Montreal “a place I can flourish.”

In DeBrincat’s case, however, it’s difficult to imagine him thriving anywhere more than he did in Chicago.

The Michigander arrived in 2017 as an already elite shooter, but he grew over time to also be an all-around dynamic offensive weapon, a tenacious back-checker and penalty killer, a locker-room leader, a husband and father and, truly, a post-Stanley-Cup-era face of the Hawks franchise.

He genuinely appeared on track for a career arc comparable to Patrick Kane. Only six players in Hawks franchise history have recorded more than 300 points in their first five seasons; Kane and DeBrincat are two of them.

“[Patrick] teaches you that work ethic you need to be the best,” DeBrincat said. “He’s a competitive guy just like me, and we’ve had a couple battles in the past, but he’s a great friend to me.”

Just as heartbreakingly, he sounded fully bought in to the Hawks’ rebuilding plans and committed to guiding the team through the coming years of struggles –in spite of the fact he’d already endured five seasons of losing records.

But that is one silver lining of the trade, which DeBrincat recognized Friday: he’ll finally get to play “meaningful games” again.

The Senators are ascending quickly and boast a number of talented, young forwards, many of which have already reached out to DeBrincat. Shane Pinto offered to cede to him No. 12, his number previously with the Hawks, which he accepted.

“It’s a new adventure for me,” DeBrincat said. “It’s tough because I have so many friends in Chicago, but…hopefully I’m scoring goals on them in no time.”

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