It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the Chicago Blackhawks are more than just open for business this offseason. A step in the right direction for the franchise if they want to make good on their renewed efforts to rebuild, moving beyond their futile attempt to slap together a contender prior to this past campaign.
Fittingly, reports continue to surface that most of their roster is available. The only three said to remain off that list are Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Seth Jones.
The players excluded from that list are franchise icons Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, both of whom have no-move protection and GM Kyle Davidson is already on record saying they won’t be dealt unless they want to. I’m also told that even though Seth Jones’ eight-year, $76 million contract with the Blackhawks doesn’t start until next season, his full no-movement clause has already kicked in, so he’s not going anywhere either.
Even with some of Chicago’s biggest stars already omitted from the discussion, there are still some Blackhawks that teams will undoubtedly be calling about.
Reichel Could Fetch a Healthy Return
Despite a lacklustre debut run through his first 11 games in the NHL, Lukas Reichel offers far more offensive upside than his one assist achieved suggests. Drafted 17th overall at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, Reichel instantaneously became one of the most anticipated prospects for the Blackhawks given his smooth skill set and highlight-reel capabilities.
As a teenager, Reichel proved his prowess playing among men for Eisbären Berlin in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL). He accumulated 24 points in 42 contests at 17 and followed that up with 10 goals and 17 assists in 38 games as an 18-year-old. He also helped Berlin capture the league title in 2020-21.
Adapting to the North American game was far from an issue for Reichel, as he then went on to rack up a team-leading and record-breaking 57 points for the Rockford IceHogs through his rookie campaign in the American Hockey League (AHL).
When it comes to assessing Reichel’s potential, witnessing his progress is what matters more than his early NHL totals. This is a versatile and creative forward, who attracts the puck with every play he’s involved in. He’s the type of prospect teams dream of including in a rebuild, as he’s nowhere near his ceiling and is already impressing the stars that surround him.
That said, there are certainly numerous NHL franchises that would want to infuse Reichel into their plans, knowing what his trendline suggests for what will follow in the years to come.
From the Blackhawks’ perspective, though, the return would need to offer guaranteed assistance and then some at this point in their process, since they would be letting go of talent that could be among the lineup’s best one day. It’s in Chicago’s best interest that Reichel remains.
Murphy Should Garner League-Wide Attention
That Connor Murphy has become one of the most reliable Blackhawks in recent seasons says a lot, considering how inconsistent the collective around him has been. Logging the team’s third-highest average ice time last season, behind only Jones and Kane, Murphy landed 150 hits and accumulated 130 blocks in 57 contests.
Not known for his offensive prowess, earning a modest 10 points in 2021-22, he’s still ready to contribute when necessary. That said, Murphy isn’t there to score as much as he is a presence that helps avoid allowing his opponents to do so.
His ability to elevate into managing greater responsibility, including leading via his role as an alternate captain for the past couple of years, helps illustrate why Murphy would be the type of defenseman that teams looking to compete in the present would want to acquire.
The fact that he’s still only 29 years old is also attractive to contenders, whereas the rebuilding Blackhawks would benefit from opening up that roster spot to younger prospects like Ian Mitchell (23), Wyatt Kalynuk (25), and Alec Regula (21).
It makes a lot of sense for management to strategize around leveraging Murphy at the moment, especially since his best hockey is being wasted as a member of the Blackhawks.
DeBrincat Would Make Any Team Better
Some rumours have gone so far as to suggest that Chicago’s next potential face of the franchise is also in the mix to be moved. However, it seems far-fetched to assume that the Blackhawks would be readily willing to part ways with Alex DeBrincat — one of their most prominent stars.
Of course, it would be irresponsible for the Blackhawks to not at least have the conversation to establish what a deal involving DeBrincat could entail. That said, any such discussion should be a quick one.
At only 24 years old, DeBrincat has already hit the 40-goal mark twice through his first five years in the NHL. Along with a steady increase in average ice time over that span, he’s continually accumulated more shots, hits, and blocks per game. He’s also become one of the Blackhawks’ most prolific power play producers, having collected 14 goals and 14 assists with the extra man in 2021-22.
DeBrincat is actively turning into Chicago’s most important producer. A title that Kane has held during most of his tenure with the team, given his consistent production and game-breaking abilities. However, DeBrincat’s team-leading six game-winning goals through 2021-22 perfectly illustrate that his impact is overtaking that of Kane’s. It’s difficult to score in today’s game, yet DeBrincat makes the feat look easy.
Although indisputable that DeBrincat would easily attract aggressive offers from any lineup looking to improve, the fact that he’s just barely entered his prime is all the more reason to turn every one of them down.
As the Blackhawks look to infuse more youth into their fold, to encourage development and craft a more comprehensive approach to this rebuild, having a superstar in their mid-20s lead the way is certainly advantageous. DeBrincat’s influence would not only work to enhance that of those around him, but it would then become a crucial component of their collective effort when the Blackhawks are finally set to contend again.
While no current Blackhawk should be seen as truly untouchable, given that the franchise’s focus needs to be on improving regardless of what it takes to achieve such results, DeBrincat has to be considered among the few names fans can rest assured will remain for years to come. Simply stated, his skill is the type that’s worth holding on to.
Blackhawks Better Play This Smart
It’s one thing to commit to what a rebuild entails, in terms of being willing to let go of proven producers if it promotes a more fruitful future ahead. However, there is a fine line that needs to be established when it comes to determining whether or not a respective athlete is better suited to be dangled as bait or secured for expected success.
Of the three biggest names available on the Blackhawks — outside of Toews, Kane, and Jones — Murphy is the one that should be dealt. Not because he isn’t worthy of the respect he’s earned during his time in Chicago, but because his current value as a dependable veteran defenseman should fetch a return that makes losing him easier to digest.
Besides, Murphy is at a pivotal point in his career trajectory, with less peak playing time remaining than the others on this list. Spending his best remaining years on a rebuild doesn’t benefit anyone involved.
Whereas the risk in letting Reichel or DeBrincat go, regardless of what would be sent Chicago’s way in the transaction, just isn’t as justifiable for the organization at this time. It makes much more sense to build around their type of talent, rather than hoping to extract top value out of either before they’ve even displayed their full potential for the franchise.
Freelance thinker, paying too much attention to digital aesthetic. Oxford comma enthusiast. Spider-Man supporter. Sports fan, with two favourite hockey teams. If the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs ever meet in the Stanley Cup Final, you can find me wherever they’re playing that night.