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No team figures to be busier at the trade deadline than the Chicago Blackhawks.
For the most part, the 2022-23 season is going as planned. They are losing, and losing a lot. They have the worst record in the league, there is no short-term hope for things to get better, and the organization is all in on a complete rebuild that is probably going to take years to complete.
The best hope for the organization is that some lottery balls go its way in April and put it in a position to draft Connor Bedard with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NHL draft.
Before we can get there, though, the Blackhawks still have more veterans to trade, and it seems to be a foregone conclusion that Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Max Domi will be playing for new teams after the NHL trade deadline.
The catch with the first two is that they have no-trade clauses and could be picky about their destination given how much of their identity as NHLers is tied to the Blackhawks. This is the only franchise they have ever known, and they brought three Stanley Cups to the city of Chicago. Those are never easy trades to make.
But the Blackhawks are not doing their jobs if they do not try to move them, while Kane and Toews both have to accept that they probably will not be re-signed as free agents after this season. And given where this rebuild is, the Blackhawks should not even entertain that possibility.
This week, The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus and Scott Powers put together a Blackhawks trade board and said the Blackhawks would probably want first-round picks for Kane, Toews and Domi.
BS Meter: Not B.S. on Kane; B.S. on Toews and Domi
There is no doubt the Blackhawks are starting their asking prices on all three players at first-round draft picks, and in the case of Kane, a first-round pick PLUS a prospect.
And while it is true that contenders are typically willing to trade a first-round pick for a rental, there seem to be a lot of potential roadblocks here.
Kane is still the most productive of the three players, and while his production has taken somewhat of a hit this season, there is still a belief that he can produce big numbers on a good team with better players around him. He had 92 points just one year ago and was averaging a 95-point pace per 82 games the previous four years.
The Blackhawks should be able to get a first-round pick and another player for him, especially if they retain some of Kane’s remaining salary ($10.5 million salary-cap hit). A potential problem is Kane has full control over where he’ll go due to the no-trade restrictions in his contract, which could hurt some of the Blackhawks’ leverage. A good parallel here should be the Claude Giroux trade from a year ago when the Flyers were dealing a core player that had trade restrictions and had to take a future first-round pick and Owen Tippett.
Expecting a first-rounder for Toews or Domi seems like a stretch.
Toews still has value as a defensive forward, and he is still good on faceoffs, but he is not an impact player offensively anymore, and he has the same trade restrictions and salary-cap number as Kane. There has to be a market for Toews to demand that sort of price, and then Toews has to agree to the trade. A trade seems likely, but a first-round return seems unlikely.
Domi is having a fine year and has been one of the few bright spots on an otherwise dismal team. He can bring some offense and playmaking to the table, but he is a poor defensive player and has a hard time staying out of the penalty box. Those are two things contenders are not looking for this time of year. There is no doubt going to be a market for him, but probably not a first-round-pick market. When he was dealt at the deadline a year ago, it was a three-team trade involving Carolina, Columbus and Florida and a bunch of second- and third-tier prospects. His value did not go up that much in a year.
[Salar-cap data via CapFriendly]