Alex DeBrincat and his future with the Chicago Blackhawks remain very much in limbo as the NHL offseason rapidly approaches.
Pierre LeBrun reported over the weekend the Blackhawks are having "ongoing discussions" with other teams about the 24-year-year-old winger. According to LeBrun, if the Blackhawks decide to move him they would be looking for a package involving a young player, high picks and top prospect.
DeBrincat is among the league’s brightest talents, having blossomed into a lethal triggerman alongside linemate and future Hall of Famer Patrick Kane. Unfortunately, despite the duo's firepower, the Blackhawks have continued to descend into mediocrity, finishing this past season with a meager 68 points, their worst full season result since 2005-06.
That poor showing leaves Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson, who has been at the helm since Stan Bowman resigned in disgrace last October, little choice but to commit to a full scale teardown.
Davidson will no doubt have his work cut out for him, with several bloated deals and handcuffing no movement clauses littering Chicago’s Capfriendly page. Those hurdles make nailing the impending DeBrincat decision even more significant to ensure the Hawks rebuild starts on the right note.
It will certainly help that the list of suitors interested in DeBrincat’s services will be lengthy, and deservedly so. Only five players have put the puck in the net more often than the Michigan native over the last two seasons, while DeBrincat also ranks eighth league wide over that period in power-play tallies.
His lethal skillset will come packaged with one year remaining at $6.4 million before he’s due for a significant raise as a restricted free agent. That may limit the market somewhat, alongside a presumed hefty asking price from Davidson and Co., however, there’s little doubt that DeBrincat will be worth the cost of admission for whatever team decides to pull the trigger on acquiring the two-time all star.
Los Angeles Kings
Mentioned by LeBrun as a team that has made contact with Chicago, the Kings make a ton of sense as a destination for the Blackhawks star. The Kings fit the bill in pretty much every important capacity, with a highly regarded prospect pool, a flexible cap situation, and a near-full slate of high draft picks over the next two seasons.
While the Kings would likely be unwilling to part with former second overall selection Quinton Byfield, their exceptional farm should still allow general manager Rob Blake to move other highly regarded assets without dramatically altering L.A.’s future plans.
Alex Turcotte, the fifth overall selection in 2019, is one name that would likely be a prime target for Chicago, as would Kings 2017 first-rounder Gabe Vilardi.
As for the outlook of their salary bill, the Kings are in a unique position with most key contributors locked up beyond next season. Adrian Kempe is their only restricted free agent due for a significant raise this season, while Trevor Moore is the team’s lone pending free agent of note for next season (assuming that a 37-year-old Jonathan Quick isn’t retained). That should provide plenty of room for any future extension with the club.
New Jersey Devils
The reigning offseason champs are once again in a position to make a significant run at an impact player this summer. While the Devils' offseason splashes to date have yet to translate into success on the ice, the club has done a good job building a solid core while simultaneously accumulating futures.
The club’s biggest issue on the prospect front, however, may be the top heavy structure of their farm at the moment. Both of their last two first round picks, high flying sniper Alex Holtz and puck mover extraordinaire Luke Hughes, could be untouchable given their upside. Beyond that duo, the Devils' futures are much less enticing, with a lack of projectable impact players in the cupboard.
Notably, New Jersey does own the second overall pick in this year’s draft, providing the Devils with another highly valued asset to potentially move. It isn’t hard to envision the Blackhawks waiting beyond the draft to deal their star winger to maximize the return, however, which would make consummating a deal around the selection difficult.
The team’s imminent need for goal-scorers to play alongside Jack Hughes and Nico Hischer may ultimately be enough to sway general manager Tom Fitzgerald to make a splash while the opportunity presents itself. Fitzgerald has already shown an aptitude for making significant deals given his Dougie Hamilton signing last year, and the allure of adding a prolific sniper may be enough to entice him again.
The Canes may not appear to be in a position to add someone like DeBrincat given their already well-established core, however, upon deeper inspection, the stars may align for the Hurricanes to be significant players in this discussion.
Through an exceptional combination of strong scouting and a reliance on advanced analytics, Carolina has built a strong farm system for a contending team, with a wide breadth of talent at multiple positions.
The team does lack an exceptional talent in the futures department, which may be a dealbreaker for Chicago, but based on pure volume, the Hurricanes could look to put together a highly competitive package. Highlights from the Canes' farm system that could be key pieces include 2019 first round selection Ryan Suzuki, as well as AHL playoff standout Jack Drury.
The Hurricanes cap structure is also in a relatively flexible situation, with Vincent Trocheck serving as their only significant pending unrestricted free agent. Martin Necas is another player that could be involved in a potential deal, as he is also in need of a new contract as a restricted free agent.
The perpetually rebuilding Senators and general manager Pierre Dorion have reiterated that they hope to compete next season, and will be looking to improve their squad fairly dramatically this offseason at the cost of future assets.
The Senators don’t possess the high-end future trade chips of the Los Angeles Kings, the lottery selection of the New Jersey Devils, or the breadth of prospects of the Hurricanes, which makes them more of a dark horse in the DeBrincat conversation.
With that said, the Sens are clearly pushing to take the leap in a highly competitive Atlantic Division. Whether or not they’re ultimately able to do so is up for debate, however, doing everything in their power to acquire high end talent to play alongside their budding core is clearly going to need to be a priority in order to take the next step.
One edge the Senators do have on other DeBrincat suitors is a heaping pile of draft picks, with 19 over the next two seasons. If the Senators are able to put together a package using their draft capital to their advantage, alongside prospects such as 2020 first round selection Ridly Greig, they may be able to put together a competitive offer after all.
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