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Kyle Davidson indicated it was time for the Chicago Blackhawks to engage in a rebuild when he took over as their general manager on March 1. Since then, the future of Alex DeBrincat has become the growing focus of media trade speculation.
Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli has DeBrincat atop his list of offseason trade targets. He believes it’s a matter of “when” rather than “if” the 24-year-old left winger gets moved. Seravalli considers him the Blackhawks’ best trade chip to land the type of return that will enable them to stockpile future assets.
Coming off his second 40-goal season in his fifth year in the NHL, DeBrincat is a gifted offensive winger. He would draw considerable interest from teams in need of scoring punch.
DeBrincat’s contract is another reason he’s become the subject of trade conjecture. He has a year remaining on his deal with an annual average value of $6.4 million and will be a restricted free agent next summer with arbitration rights. Because he’ll earn an actual salary of $9 million for 2022-23, it’ll cost the Blackhawks that much to qualify his rights.
Speaking of free agency, DeBrincat will also be a year away from unrestricted free-agent eligibility next summer. If the Blackhawks’ rebuilding process appears to be lengthy, he could opt for a one-year deal that bridges the gap until his UFA eligibility and then sign with a playoff contender. Davidson could also decide he’s too expensive to re-sign and shop him for the best possible return.
What kind of return would Davidson seek if he puts DeBrincat on the trade block? NBC Sports’ Adam Gretz suggests the asking price could include a first-round pick, a “really good” prospect or young NHL player and perhaps “some NHL roster filler.” The Blackhawks traded their first-rounder in this year’s draft last summer, so Davidson could be keen to acquire one.
The best trade partners for Davidson would be teams that have depth in draft picks, prospects and young talent to meet his asking price. They must also have sufficient salary-cap space to take on DeBrincat’s contract for 2022-23 and be able to sign him to a new deal next summer.
Here’s a look at five possible landing spots for DeBrincat and the type of return the Blackhawks could seek. Feel free to express your thoughts on this topic in the comments section below.
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Under the stewardship of general manager Steve Yzerman, the Detroit Red Wings have been patiently building with young talent. However, it’s been six years since they last qualified for the playoffs. It may be time for Yzerman to make a major move for someone like DeBrincat who could help put his team back in postseason contention.
The Wings already have two top-six left wingers in Tyler Bertuzzi and Jakub Vrana. Bertuzzi, however, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer and could be reluctant to ink a contract extension. With a 25th-ranked 2.77 goals per game this season, Yzerman must add more punch to his offense.
Maybe a deal can be made with the Blackhawks involving a one-for-one swap of Bertuzzi for DeBrincat. Given the former’s UFA status next year, however, the Hawks could prefer a package that includes the Red Wings’ 2022 first-round pick (eighth overall), one of their top prospects and perhaps young winger (and 2018 first-round pick) Filip Zadina.
The Wings have $35.8 million in cap space for 2022-23 with 15 players under contract. That gives Yzerman more than enough room to add DeBrincat and still make other additions as needed. He would also have enough in 2023-24 to ink the winger to a lucrative long-term extension.
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The Los Angeles Kings exceeded expectations this season by reaching the playoffs for the first time in four years. General manager Rob Blake was rebuilding with young talent stockpiled within his system. However, last summer’s acquisitions of veteran forwards Phillip Danault and Viktor Arvidsson played key roles in getting the Kings into the postseason.
Blake could be tempted to add another established player like DeBrincat. With 2.87 goals per game (20th overall), they might not have qualified for the 2022 playoffs without their solid goaltending and defensive play. A sniper like DeBrincat alongside Danault or captain Anze Kopitar on the top two lines could be a welcome catalyst to the offense.
Sitting with the 19th overall pick in this year’s draft, Blake could offer that selection as part of a package for a skilled young scorer such as DeBrincat. If he’s reluctant to part with it, he’s got considerable depth in prospects to draw upon to tempt the Blackhawks. Blake probably won’t part with top prospect Quinton Byfield, but perhaps he’d consider including someone such as Brandt Clarke or Alex Turcotte.
The Kings have $19.9 million in cap space with 15 players under contract and restricted free-agent winger Adrian Kempe as their most expensive to re-sign. Blake might have to clear some additional cap space in a separate deal to comfortably absorb DeBrincat’s $6.4 million and afford a long-term extension.
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After several years of rebuilding, the New Jersey Devils hope to finally join the ranks of playoff contenders next season. Adding a scoring winger such as DeBrincat could provide them with the final piece of the puzzle.
The Devils possess the second overall pick in the 2022 NHL draft. General manager Tom Fitzgerald told reporters during his end-of-season press conference on May 5 that he could trade it for an impact player. Perhaps he’ll be in the market for a scoring forward to provide a boost to a team whose 2.99 goals per game this season ranked 19th overall while its power-play percentage (15.6) was 28th.
Already well-stocked with talented young centers such as Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes and Dawson Mercer, the Devils also have a rising star in winger Jesper Bratt. Nevertheless, they could use a proven sniper of DeBrincat’s caliber skating alongside Hischier or Hughes on one of their top two lines.
The Devils have $25.3 million in salary-cap space for 2022-23 with 15 players under contract. There’s room to acquire DeBrincat with enough space remaining to re-sign Bratt and fill out the remainder of the roster. The Blackhawks could be very interested if Fitzgerald approached them with a package offer featuring the second overall selection.
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A lack of scoring depth was a key factor that scuttled the New York Islanders’ 2021-22 season. Their 2.79 goals per game ranked 23rd overall. With a need for a talented young sniper to play alongside playmaking center Mathew Barzal, Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello might cast his eye upon DeBrincat as an option.
Pairing Barzal with DeBrincat under new head coach Lane Lambert could see the 25-year-old Islanders center return to the 85-point heights of his 2017-18 rookie campaign. It would mean moving Barzal back to the first line while dropping winger Anders Lee and center Brock Nelson down to the second line.
The Islanders hold the 13th overall pick in this year’s draft. Lamoriello could part with it in a package deal for a talent such as DeBrincat in hopes his addition will enable the Isles to regain the form that saw them reach the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals and the 2021 semifinals.
With $12 million in cap space for 2022-23 and defenseman Noah Dobson to re-sign, Lamoriello will have to shed some salary to make this work in the short and long term. Bundling that first-rounder with a quality prospect and a player on a short-term contract, such as Josh Bailey or Anthony Beauvillier, might form the nucleus of a decent offer to tempt the Blackhawks.
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Like the New Jersey Devils, the Ottawa Senators are willing to part with their first-rounder in this year’s draft in exchange for an impact player. Perhaps general manager Pierre Dorion will give the Blackhawks a call about DeBrincat and dangle that draft pick as part of a package.
The Senators hold the seventh overall selection. On June 13, the Ottawa Sun‘s Bruce Garrioch reported Dorion indicated he’d received calls about that pick. He’s willing to move it for a player who can help his club become a playoff contender for the first time since 2016-17. Garrioch added that the Senators GM seeks a top-end winger and a top-four defenseman.
DeBrincat would address that top-end winger need, bringing invaluable depth to an offense whose 2.73 goals per game ranked 26th this season. The Senators already have a top-line left winger in Brady Tkachuk, while the promising Alex Formenton fills the second-line position. However, they could put DeBrincat at right wing alongside rising star center Tim Stutzle, giving the Senators two potent scoring lines.
Carrying $23.3 million in salary-cap space with 15 players signed for next season, the Senators must re-sign restricted free agents Formenton and first-line center Josh Norris. Still, they should have sufficient cap space to add DeBrincat. They could also include a salaried player such as Connor Brown or Nikita Zaitsev as part of the return to comfortably absorb DeBrincat’s cap hit with enough room for other moves.
Stats via NHL.com. Salary info via Cap Friendly.