Chicago Blackhawks Rebuild Begins

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 23: Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville yells from the bench during a game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the San Jose Sharks on February 23, 2018, at the United Center in Chicago, IL. Blackhawks won 3-1. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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The February 26th NHL trade deadline has come and gone. The Chicago Blackhawks rebuild is in full swing as they stocked up on picks with several trades. Over the next few months, they’ll need to draft well, deal with their four RFA’s, as well as evaluate their current roster. There will be a lot of uncertainty as the Blackhawks fans heal from their favorite team missing the playoffs.

Chicago Blackhawks Rebuild Starts at 2018 Trade Deadline

As the dust settles after Monday’s busy NHL trade deadline, the Chicago Blackhawks rebuild has begun. The 2017-18 NHL season has been a huge disappointment for both the team and their loyal fans. The lack of success from the off-season roster moves General Manager Stan Bowman made was a big downer for fans – almost as bad as the Blackhawks impotent power play this season. Add in the injuries to Corey Crawford and the season-long loss of Marian Hossa, the odds were stacked against the Blackhawks being successful.

Trades Bring Draft Picks

This leads us to this season’s trade deadline that was unlike any other of the past 10 seasons. Usually, the Blackhawks have been searching for that missing player(s) needed to make a run for the Stanley Cup. Stan Bowman has had success adding pieces over the last decade, proven by the team winning three Stanley Cups in the previous nine seasons.

As buyers at previous trade deadlines, Chicago had given up some draft picks trying to win the Cup. This season, the Blackhawks were sellers – a very unfamiliar place for the team and its fans. While thousands of Blackhawks fans are upset at the team and its play, they should be happy that they were able to deal assets and stock up picks for the future. These draft picks will be instrumental in how long the Blackhawks rebuild takes. The upcoming 2018 NHL Draft is a huge opportunity to stock Chicago with talent.

Trades and Roster Moves

This is the list of who was traded or moved recently by the Blackhawks and their return value.

  • Right wing Tommy Wingels traded to the Boston Bruins for a conditional fifth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft
  • Left wing Ryan Hartman and the Blackhawks fifth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft to the Nashville Predators for centre Victor Ejdsell and Nashville’s first and fourth-round picks in 2018 NHL Draft.
  • Defenceman Michal Kempny traded to the Washington Capitals for a third-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft
  • Defenceman Ville Pokka traded to the Ottawa Senators for forward Chris DiDomenico
  • Forward Lance Bouma put on waivers and assigned to the Rockford Ice Hogs

The greatest impact from the trades was the restocking of the Blackhawks 2018 draft picks. Their second and fourth-round 2018 draft picks were dealt away as buyers at the trade deadline over the last two seasons. With the team’s sudden decline this season, it was imperative that they begin their rebuild immediately through the upcoming draft.

Here’s a look at the Blackhawks 2018 draft by rounds:

  • 1 – 2 picks
  • 2 – 0 picks
  • 3 – 2 picks
  • 4 – 1 pick
  • 5 – 1 pick
  • 6 – 1 pick
  • 7 – 1 pick

Blackhawks Rebuild And Reality

With two picks in the first round and two in the third round this summer, the Blackhawks rebuild will hopefully involve some wise choices that can help the team find their winning ways in the future. Having eight picks this year and nine picks in the 2019 draft, the team is hopefully positioning itself for good times ahead.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, we must caution against the idea that any of those 17 picks will provide any immediate relief to the misery of Chicago fans. The Blackhawks will need to balance out the future draft picks with re-signing their RFA’s as well as acquiring free-agents that can bring short-term help if a Cup run is near.

Past Draft Class Lessons

Scouting and drafting players are a hit or miss proposition for NHL teams. Many players need seasoning in college, junior leagues, or the minors before they’re ready for the big show. Most will never make it to the NHL as starters, and a lot will spend their entire career in the minors or leave the sport altogether.

As an example, only two players from the Blackhawks last four drafts (2014-2017) are currently playing for the Blackhawks. Nick Schmaltz (2014) and Alex DeBrincat (2016) are the only two players out of 34 drafted by the Blackhawks since 2014 to make an immediate impact on the team. It’s not to say that none of the other 32 players will not make it to the pro level, it’s just too early to tell. Most of them are either in college, juniors, the AHL, ECHL, or playing overseas.

RFA’s Ahead

Another issue that will affect the Blackhawks rebuild will be several of their players becoming RFA’s at the end of the season. This will require the Blackhawks to make qualifying offers to those players designated as RFA’s to keep them from becoming UFA’s. This process can be contentious as the team and the player work out an agreeable salary without the player going to arbitration or seeking an offer sheet from another team.

Here’s the list of the Blackhawks RFA’s at the end of this season and their current salaries from Cap

The End is Near

While the Blackhawks finish up their season, there will be a lot of discussion of what went wrong this year. The team is not happy, and their fans are beside themselves as they watch their team miss the playoffs. Expectations will be high as the Blackhawks bring up their young talent the rest of the season. They’ll try to get a feel for where they’re at in their progression from draftees to the pro level. The young players will get a chance to show if they’re ready to make an impact or not. After the season, all eyes will be on Stan Bowman and his staff as they use the draft to rebuild. Hopefully, there’s another Alex DeBrincat or Nick Schmaltz waiting to wear the Blackhawks sweater sooner rather than later.

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