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Chicago Blackhawks Summer Trade Target: Yes or No? – Hockey Writers – Chicago Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks are starting their weekend with a bang. Pierre LeBrun of Athletic published an article detailing the latest news he’s hearing around the league, including some pertinent information on the Blackhawks.

LeBrun reported that general manager Kyle Davidson continues to make calls “looking at a top-six forward and maybe a middle-six forward.” (from ‘NHL rumors: Trade talk heats up on Laine, Necas, Ehlers and more, and latest on Cooper-Canada’ – The Athletic – 06/13/2024).

This isn’t exactly a bombshell, considering the Blackhawks have been linked to Carolina Hurricanes forward Jake Guentzel. Still, it gives some realism to the Hawks who may be looking to improve their team going forward. With that said, let’s take a look at the most prominent trade names and see if they make sense for Chicago to explore.

1. Nikolaj Ehlers – No

I want to start with Nikolaj Ehlers because I talked about him last month as a fit for the Blackhawks. He has one year left on his contract (6 million AAVs), and at age 28, he could come with a long-term option if he opts out. In fact, there’s a good chance it could be, as he’s been a 40-plus point producer throughout his nine years with the Winnipeg Jets. His committed two-way play could work wonders next to Connor Bedard.

A report from TSN’s Darren Deger said Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff would like to keep Ehlers, but knowing Kyle Connor will be extended makes it a challenge. So, the Jets won’t just offer Ehlers as a cap space. He was the fourth highest goalscorer this season. Our Jets contributor, Connor Hrabchak, told me that the Jets may be looking for a right-handed defenseman, a middle to late first-rounder, and a BC-level prospect. He insisted on the defender, however.

If so, the Blackhawks may not have much to offer without Connor Murphy. However, he is not exactly a top defender, and has some injury concerns. If it worked with Ehler’s list of 10 no-trade teams, his one-year hit makes sense, but I’m not sure about the fit anymore. It would be nice, but it probably won’t happen, especially since Hrabchak said Winnipeg doesn’t do this deal with the team’s rivals.

2. Martin Nečas – Yae

The legend of Hurricanes forward Martin Nečas will live on for the rest of the summer, as he may be the hottest prospect in a trade. He seems like a good fit for the Blackhawks, but in reality, he’s a good fit for every NHL team. The 25-year-old has grown into a player who seems to be getting better every year. His best season was 2022-23, where he recorded 71 points in 82 games. However, his production is down this year with 53 points in 77 games, but that is still better than average.

Elliotte Friedman reported that the Hurricanes are looking for “star power” in a possible trade return. In another twist, LeBrun reported that the Blackhawks showed interest in Necas when he added, “The Canes have told teams they are ready to keep him” if they don’t get the package they want.

Let’s say the Hawks are looking for a young player who will continue to grow alongside Bedard as he has already made a name for himself. If so, this move makes all the sense in the world since Necas is a center and wing (he was drafted as a center but played wing in Carolina). That would take some pressure off Bedard, being able to switch them as needed and still provide a high scoring touch.

Martin Necas, Carolina Hurricanes (Amy Irvin / Hockey Writers)

Knowing that the Hurricanes are determined to play hardball and keep him makes me wonder if the Hawks have the “star power” the Hurricanes are looking for since Bedard is the biggest star on the team. Former MVP Taylor Hall could be attractive, but that doesn’t seem to make much sense since he missed most of last season with an ACL injury, and there’s a risk there. Our Hurricanes contributor, Zach Martin, mentioned Philipp Kurashev or Lukas Reichel as possible players for the Hurricanes to look at. Even though Kurashev is having a breakout year, I think they’ll part ways with him for Nečas, but I’m not sure Kurashev is the focal point enough to do something. But who knows? If Nečas wants out, and he reportedly does, and the Hurricanes don’t want him to leave for free, maybe the two sides can work something out.

3. Jake Guentzel – Yes

The Jake Guentzel rumors in Chicago started in early June when insider Elliotte Friedman shared the idea that the Blackhawks would be eligible to sign him as a free agent, and it’s been heating up ever since. Now, we know the Hurricanes are asking for a mid-round pick for his signing rights since they may not be able to afford his next contract. We also have insight from Davidson about whether he wants to go down that path.

Related: Jake Guentzel-to-Blackhawks Free Agency Prediction Highlights Team Needs

Davidson talked about the Guentzel rumors and had a “we’ll see” approach, saying he wouldn’t talk about it but for any player they see as important, they’ll look into the possibility. It seems like a no-brainer to trade a mid-round pick for a top scorer. The problem is, it’s up to Davidson if he wants to commit to the 29-year-old as they want to focus on cap space, and he likely commands $8 million in AAV. Still, for a 30-plus goal scorer, it’s not a bad play to try and get his signature rights. Otherwise they can try to sign him in July, but he will have many suitors.

4. Patrik Laine – Yes And No

The last major candidate, TSN Insider Trading reported that forward Patrik Laine and the Columbus Blue Jackets are working on a trade as he looks for a fresh start. This was a huge bombshell, considering Laine has two years left on his four-year deal ($8.7 million) and a 10-team no-trade list.

Laine is known as the 26-year-old’s goalscorer, with 204 goals in 480 games. His best season was 2017-18, when he scored 44 goals with Winnipeg. A young, pure scorer is what every team wants, but there have been concerns. The first is that he ended up playing a full 82-game season in 2018-19, and has only played 18 games (nine points) this season due to injury and entering the relief program. In addition, Blue Jackets general manager Don Waddell said Laine recently had shoulder surgery, but it was “cleanup” and nothing affects him. The second question is whether his salary is high. However, considering that may be a fear for many teams, Columbus retaining salary is not a possibility.

Related: 3 Potential Blue Jackets Trade Destinations for Patrik Laine

I understand the dynamic of a hitter coming in and out of the lineup as a risky move. But if Laine is unhappy with his current situation, sometimes the best expression of the player takes a new place. If he wants to come to Chicago, playing with Bedard can do that. It’s unclear what the Blue Jackets will ask for when he returns, but they may have a limited amount of leverage for a player who has seen some stats and wants out. This could be confusing for the Blackhawks if they don’t have to part with valuable assets and if they can work with Columbus to save some salary. I like Laine’s contract name because it’s short. If he didn’t succeed, it’s not that much of an obstacle. It’s something to think about. Waddell called him a “difference maker,” and when Laine is at his best, he’s there.

All in all, the Blackhawks are in an interesting position because they have the salary cap space ($33 million) and the cap space (26 picks in the next three drafts) to trade for big names if they choose to do so. If they can get any of the names on the list, their 2024 18th overall pick could be in play, which could be key. LeBrun said the Blackhawks are working to get Bedard some help, and arguably any of these names would be a big upgrade, but I believe Laine and Guentzel are the ones to watch based on the reported trade packages.

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