Blackhawks still trying to trade into 1st round of NHL draft

MONTREAL –The Blackhawks unveiled their final draft board to their entire scouting department for the first time Wednesday, just over 24 hours before the draft begins Thursday night.

In reality, though, the board had been set and well-known by general manager Kyle Davidson and scouting director Mike Doneghey since May.

“We just sat on it and showed it to the group today, and went over new information and where agents and advisors of players thought their players would go,” Doneghey said Wednesday.

“The agents are like, ‘From what I’m hearing, ‘Player X’ is going to go between five and 10, or six and 12.’ It lets Kyle and [associate GM Norm Maciver] get a little bit of a snapshot, if they’re thinking of making any moves, know what types of players they could get in those ranges. If it was up to the agents, there’d be 55 players who’d go in the first round. They overvalue — which is fine, it’s their job –but it’s our job to read through all that.”

At the moment, Doneghey is sitting in limbo, with the Hawks not currently holding any picks higher than 38th –which’ll take place during the second round Friday — but actively looking to acquire a first-rounder. He’s just waiting for a call from Davidson.

Meanwhile, Davidson — with his intentions clear to everyone –is making and receiving plenty of calls from other GMs around the league. Trading Alex DeBrincat is by far the most likely way he’ll forge into the first round, although there could be alternatives.

“[There’s] lots of talk, lots of calls and due diligence,” Davidson said. “I’d preferably like to get in the first round, but if there’s nothing there that makes sense for us, I’m not going to be disappointed about it.”

“You do get a lot of calls. But people know pretty quickly if there’s going to be a fit or not…and you hear the most from the same couple teams, over and over again. It has really distilled down to a few teams the last little while, because they know what they want, so we’ll see if it rises to the level of getting something done.”

Davidson steered well wide of giving away any specifics of his negotiations, but publicly, the Devils (holding the No. 2 pick), Flyers (No. 5 pick) and Senators (No. 7 pick) are considered the most likely suitors for DeBrincat.

The Devils’ situation will be dramatically affected by the Canadiens’ decision with the No. 1 pick; Canadiens GM Kent Hughes told reporters Monday he was still undecided between three prospects (Shane Wright, Juraj Slafkovsky and Logan Cooley). Rumors involving the Flyers have cooled lately. The Senators cleared salary cap space Tuesday by buying out forward Colin White, and Senators GM Pierre Dorion told reporters Wednesday there’s a “50-50” chance he trades the seventh pick.

If the Hawks do acquire a first-round pick, Davidson insisted he’d take the best player available, whether forward or defenseman, despite the heavy defensive lean of the Hawks’ existing prospect pool.

And no matter what happens, Thursday at the Bell Centre will be a significant night for Davidson, conducting his first draft as an NHL GM. It’s the same building where he attended the 2009 NHL draft as a senior in college.

“I paid my own way, I drove down here from Sudbury, [Ontario,] thinking, ‘Oh, I’ll go to the draft and meet some people, get a job in hockey,'” he said. “It didn’t work that way, but I tried.”

Thirteen years later, he’ll not only be sitting on the arena floor, but also be one of the most-watched GMs in the league.

RFA puzzle

Davidson said Wednesday the Hawks have talked to the agents for all of their restricted free agents, starting contract negotiations with some of them and seeking to explore trade options for others.

The Hawks’ RFA list includes Kirby Dach, Dylan Strome, Dominik Kubalik, Philipp Kurashev, Caleb Jones, Wyatt Kalynuk and several other minor-leaguers. Strome and Kubalik are likely to be either traded or allowed to walk into unrestricted free agency, whereas most or all of the others will likely return.

“The RFA trade market is not the most fruitful market,” Davidson said. “Maybe that’s something that will come on the draft floor.”

Davidson also said he expects to have a “much better handle on” the Hawks’ goaltending plans for next season after the next 24 hours. Kevin Lankinen and Collin Delia are both pending UFAs. Maple Leafs goalie Petr Mrazek and Senators goalie Matt Murray, two overpaid veterans, could be options that’d come with additional sweeteners.

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