MONTREAL –The Blackhawks’ scorched-earth rebuild is on.
Alex DeBrincat, the dynamic winger once seen as the centerpiece of the Hawks’ new core, was traded Thursday to the Senators for the seventh and 39th overall picks in the 2022 NHL Draft, plus a third-round pick in 2024.
It’s an underwhelming return for a burgeoning superstar, but it sets the tone for the Hawks moving forward.
DeBrincat is just the first of numerous current players who could be dealt for picks, prospects and other future-looking assets by general manager Kyle Davidson this offseason, but none will be more valuable than him. His name had reverberated around the NHL as the centerpiece of the trade rumor discussion for weeks.
“It was an incredibly difficult decision to trade a player of Alex’s caliber,” Davidson said in a statement. “We feel as if this move sets the Blackhawks up for future success by giving us additional flexibility and future talent.Securing this early of a first-round pick for tonight and an additional second-round selection tomorrow allows us to fortify our prospect base with high-end players who we expect to be a difference makers in the coming years.”
The Hawks will make the seventh pick Thursday night. Prospects like Joakim Kemell, Marco Kasper, Matthew Savoie, Conor Geekie and Jonathan Lekkerimaki could be considered.
The logical criticism is that DeBrincat, still only 24 years old, will likely always be — even in several years, when the Hawks start trying to contend again –better than whoever the Hawks pick seventh.
He is due a massive payday next summer, when his current contract with a $6.4 million salary cap hit expires, but he could become a franchise centerpiece type of player.
The trade ends his Chicago tenure shockingly abruptly, coming off a fantastic season in which he tied a career high with 41 goals and arguably surpassed Patrick Kane as the team’s best player.
DeBrincat, in total, tallied 160 goals and 307 points in 368 games over five seasons with the Hawks after being chosen 39th overall in the 2016 draft –one of the Hawks former scouting department’s few big hits in recent years.
How DeBrincat’s departure affects Kane, who’d said in April that DeBrincat’s presence was part of why he enjoyed still playing for the Hawks, and Kane’s decision regarding his no-trade clause remains to be seen.
This story will be updated.