MONTREAL –Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson and the NHL’s 31 other GMs will meet for several hours Wednesday afternoon in Montreal ahead of the draft Thursday and Friday.
Trades won’t officially be on the meeting agenda, but from an external standpoint, the spin-off trade discussions the meeting might produce is clearly the most intriguing part.
Davidson will likely be an active player in said discussions, too, and remain so into Thursday and Friday. The Hawks have made it clear their top priority is to accumulate as many future-oriented assets –namely picks and prospects — as possible, and they’re willing to listen to offers on any current players.
Alex DeBrincat obviously headlines that list; he might headline the list of players on the block across the entire NHL, although it remains unclear if he will be moved this week. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported recently the Flyers have talked with the Hawks about DeBrincat, but the Flyers’ unwillingness to part with the No. 5 overall pick cooled off those negotiations.
DeBrincat isn’t the only player for whom Davidson will be trying to find a suitor, though. With pending restricted free agent forwards Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik seemingly not in the Hawks’ plans moving forward, trading their RFA rights to more interested teams would be prudent.
The issue is whether any teams will be willing to give up anything — even a mid-round pick — for either guy. Even if the Hawks do get another team to bite, they probably won’t get very much in return.
The Hawks have backed themselves into somewhat of a corner here, given that it’s practically common knowledge now that they don’t plan to issue a qualifying offer to either player by Sunday’s deadline. By next Wednesday, they’ll likely both be unrestricted free agents.
That’s because of several reasons. Strome’s QO would come in at $3.6 million and Kubalik’s at $4 million, both potentially above fair market value. Strome, at age 25, and Kubalik, a month away from turning 27, won’t still be in their primes when the Hawks try to contend again in a few years. And both can be significant offensive contributors when hot, which would be counterintuitive to the Hawks’ tanking objective.
So the only advantages for another team trading for Strome or Kubalik would be the opportunity to either sign him to an extension in the next few days or to qualify him Sunday –at the aforementioned price — and figure out an extension later this summer. And in Kubalik’s case, it’s really just the former, because it’s unlikely any team would be willing to pay him $4 million coming off his highly disappointing 32-point 2021-22 season.
The Hawks would theoretically have been much better off dealing them back in March at the trade deadline, or even before that, but it’s hard to hold them at fault for not.
Kubalik’s value was already depressed then, and they likely hoped he would eventually find his game again. Strome never received much trade interest from other teams all season long, per sources, despite the Hawks’ continued efforts to shop him.
Now the very end of the two enigmatic forwards’ tenures in Chicago has (probably) arrived, and Davidson will presumably take pretty much whatever he can get for them. But given his lack of leverage here, there’s no guarantee that mindset will lead to actual trades coming to fruition.