4 Potential Landing Spots for Blackhawks’ Tyler Johnson

At first glance, it might seem tough for the Chicago Blackhawks to successfully trade Tyler Johnson. In his first season with the club, he appeared in just 26 games (while posting seven points) after a neck injury and a concussion limited his playing time. Furthermore, he carries a cap hit of $5 million for the next two seasons before becoming an unrestricted free agent (UFA) in 2024, which you could argue is a significant overpayment for the 31-year-old forward.

Though these factors could make it tough for Chicago to move Johnson, Blackhawks general manager (GM) Kyle Davidson has made it clear the team is rebuilding and open for business. While Johnson’s production has dropped off since posting a career-high 72 points with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2014-15, he remains a versatile forward with two Stanley Cups on his resumé. Here are four potential landing spots should the Blackhawks look to move Johnson after just one season.

Anaheim Ducks

Despite missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fourth consecutive year, the future looks bright for the Anaheim Ducks. Young players, including Troy Terry, Trevor Zegras, and Jamie Drysdale, all made strides last season and should play prominent roles when the Ducks become competitive. Meanwhile, top prospect Mason McTavish is waiting in the wings, and the team owns the 10th overall pick in this year’s draft. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Blackhawks in a similar place a few years from now, in which they’re still rebuilding but have some solid core pieces.

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Anaheim enters the offseason with just over $39 million in cap space, the most of all 32 clubs right now. Even as a rebuilding team, the Ducks are slowly making progress and have enough money to take on Johnson’s contract if they’re interested in adding a veteran presence. He’d be a decent middle-six option and could serve as a mentor for an inexperienced Anaheim forward group.

Winnipeg Jets

The Winnipeg Jets had high hopes heading into 2021-22 but performed below expectations and missed the playoffs. They’re now at a crossroads, as forward and captain Blake Wheeler could be on his way out if the team retools. Furthermore, Winnipeg also needs to consider forward Pierre-Luc Dubois, who is set to become a restricted free agent (RFA) in July and has reportedly informed team management that he would like to test the UFA market in 2024 (from ‘Are Blake Wheeler and Pierre-Luc Dubois On The Way Out Of Winnipeg?’ The Hockey News, 06/24/22).

Tyler Johnson Chicago Blackhawks
Tyler Johnson, Chicago Blackhawks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

From their head coach vacancy to the on-ice product, there’s a lot of uncertainty in Winnipeg right now. However, if the Jets decide to maximize their competitive window, adding Johnson could make sense. Though new deals might be in order for Dubois and other RFAs, the team approximately has $18 million worth of cap space. Taking on Johnson’s contract, while not cheap, could work if the organization wants to enter “win-now” mode.

Johnson would also bolster the Jets’ forward depth. Zach Sanford and Paul Stastny are set to become UFAs this summer, so Johnson’s versatility to play both center and right-wing might be welcomed.

Carolina Hurricanes

After a seven-game loss against the New York Rangers in their second-round series, Carolina Hurricanes’ GM Don Waddell has a lot of work cut out for him. While the team has a nice core in place, forwards Max Domi, Nino Niederreiter, Vincent Trocheck, and Derek Stepan are all set to become UFAs. Depending on how many, if any, of those forwards Waddell brings back, trading for Johnson could be a viable route for the Hurricanes should they want to fill some of those gaps.

The Hurricanes enter the offseason with a little more than $19 million worth of cap space. Some of that money could very well go toward pending RFAs like Tony DeAngelo, Ethan Bear, and/or Martin Necas, but it also leaves room for some additional flexibility. While Johnson wouldn’t necessarily be an upgrade over any of the aforementioned UFA forwards, he’d replace some of their depth provided he stays healthy.

As the Blackhawks and Hurricanes head in opposite directions, a trade between the two teams makes sense. Much like the Colorado Avalanche a year ago, Carolina is more than ready to take the next step, but they have some holes in their middle-six to fill. Thus, Johnson could be an option.

Detroit Red Wings

The Detroit Red Wings might be rebuilding but have a solid, young core taking shape. With a little under $36 million in cap space, this offseason could be critical for GM Steve Yzerman, whose team is on the verge of contention but still has noticeable weaknesses. One of the areas the Red Wings could improve on is their scoring depth. As constructed, the forward group is noticeably top-heavy, with Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Jakub Vrana, and Lucas Raymond leading the way.

Tyler Johnson Tampa Bay Lightning
Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While Johnson might not be the flashiest option for Chicago’s Original Six rivals, he’d provide a solid veteran presence for the team much like he would in Anaheim. The Red Wings appear to be much closer to contention than Chicago, which is why adding a player such as Johnson would make sense. Yzerman, of course, is also familiar with Johnson’s playing style and skill set given he played for the Lightning under his watch.

Johnson May Be Worth Keeping

Although it makes sense for the Blackhawks to try to move Johnson, he might be worth keeping as the team rebuilds. Not only can Chicago afford his contract, but he’d add significant experience to what could be a young forward group next season. While they have moved out of “win-now” mode, having Johnson in the fold makes Chicago’s roster better and not worse. Should he stay healthy and bounce back, even marginally, his trade value could also improve come next year’s deadline.

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Despite his injuries, Johnson still provides championship-caliber experience and versatility, traits just about any club would want. For the Blackhawks, trading 23-year-old forward Brandon Hagel to the Lightning in March shows the unexpected could be on the table as they rebuild, which is why Johnson is worth keeping an eye on.

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