Is it Connor Bedard or bust for the Blackhawks?

The Chicago Blackhawks look to be operating with one goal in mind under Kyle Davidson: to win the next draft lottery and select Connor Bedard.

Video Transcript

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: You can see what the Montreal Canadiens are going to look like in the future. We got the makings of it. We see what Ken Hughes and Jeff Gorton want to build.

That can't-- same can't be said for another young general manager in Kyle Davidson. The Chicago Blackhawks were largely the story I think, other than Montreal. I think Montreal was the main story. But other than Montreal, the Chicago Blackhawks made themselves most prominent at the 2022 NHL draft, trading Kirby Dach to the Montreal Canadiens was one thing. Also trading Alex DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators, the Atlantic division getting more fun thanks to the Chicago Blackhawks.

They also helped out the Toronto Maple Leafs by taking on Petr Mrazek's contract for, I think, 13 spots in the draft moving back into the first round. They take Kevin Korchinski, I believe, is how you pronounce his name, seventh overall. They were without a first round pick because they traded away a ton of futures assets to get Seth Jones last summer.

So the Chicago Blackhawks are in a free-for-all type of mode. They are liquidating. It is a fire sale. Kyle Davidson, it appears, wants to lengthen the leash, his professional leash as long as possible by stripping it down before he puts any meaningful pieces or progress together. I get all that.

There are a lot of people speculating, or not speculating, but asking why Chicago was going the route they were going. I mean, it's pretty obvious. They don't have a good roster. They need to tear things down, and I guess DeBrincat could have been on the other side of a potential rebuild, but that was one of their main trade chips.

Of course, Seth Jones, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane are still on the roster. And it feels like Kyle Davidson's trying to almost dare Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, in particular, to ask for a trade. He's not going to do it, because of course, these are legends. When they signed those matching $10.5 million deals, it was, thanks for three Stanley Cups. It was, you can be a Blackhawk for life if that's what you so choose. It means numbers retired, banners raised, all that stuff.

But Davidson, it seems, is going the passive/aggressive route, which is to trade away everything around those two players in what I believe is an attempt to get them to ask for a trade. And I am pleading Patrick Kane from my little hole in my basement here to ask for that trade. Because if he hits the market, it would be so, so fun to see players and teams fall over themselves trying to get Patrick Kane at maybe 50% of the cost. That would be tremendous.

But I've said what I've said as almost fact, and it is sort of subjective here, what Chicago is doing. So what's your read on what Davidson and the Blackhawks did, are you with me in that it looks like he's trying to get those two players to ask for a trade rather than just approaching them with that idea.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: I feel like you could say, to your point, I think what he's done this past weekend with getting rid of Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach, that might be the most direct way of finding a way to get them to try to find their way out of Chicago. Because those two players in particular have likely been questioning their futures in Chicago for the better part of the last how many months? We've been trying to figure out what their futures would be. This is not a good team. They're not destined to be a cup contender for the foreseeable future, especially with that other team in Colorado doing really well in the Western Conference.

I'm with you on the Patrick Kane thing, though. If he puts himself out there available for trade, this is a guy who had a 92-point season last year he's in the twilight of his career. He can still contribute to a Cup-contending team. And you're able to get Chicago to retain salary, that is a guy you want strictly for pro hockey stuff. You want him on the ice on your team playing alongside your best center.

Think of some of the teams who want to get over the top and could use a player like Patrick Kane on their roster. Could you imagine if the Leafs traded for Patrick Kane or something? That would-- people lose their mind in Toronto. I know people, some people--

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Only one year left. Only one year left on both of them. There is no there there's no reason for Patrick Kane to waste this year.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: No.

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: There's no reason for the Blackhawks to not retain half the salary. Patrick Kane could be out there for just over $5 million. Even Jonathan Toews might be worth a look. The Edmonton Oilers adding Jonathan Toews for $5 million? I could see that happening maybe.

But Patrick Kane is the jewel. He's the gem. If he goes for $5 million he could also call his shot with a full no-move. If he wants to play somewhere, I think he could get there if he really wanted to. Now the question is, does he want to?

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Dip the Rangers in on him or something. Any Cup-contending team that feels they need one more piece to get over the hump, this is the guy I think worth doing it for, compared to Jonathan Toews who, still coming off a bit of some injury concerns.

But I think if you're Chicago, the writing's on the wall here. And I think if you're especially one of those two players, between Kane and Toews, you have to find your way out of the city because you're not going to win anytime soon with Chicago, and they're clearly trying to find a way to usher in a new era.

I'll say this too with Dach and DeBrincat, though. I'm a bit surprised that that's all they got in terms of the draft picks. I thought they would have gotten, I guess, either more futures or more prospects in a deal, I feel as if for a guy like Alex DeBrincat, who's able to score as many goals as he can score, you can get a little bit more for him.

But yeah, I think it was pretty clear what Chicago was trying to do and look, I'm just sitting back waiting for one of them to ask for a trade. And it seems as if off of, I think Kane's agent is saying at least-- I don't get the sense that he's happy about what's going on either.

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: How could he be?

JULIAN MCKENZIE: And I think it's only a matter of time.

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Kane has, I think, has several great seasons left, but this upcoming season should be his best, of his next seasons. I mean, this is a guy who is going to be, I believe, 34. I think his skills are going to translate. But why waste this season? Why waste a year where you could be even more valuable to a team if Chicago is willing to retain salary? And of course, it seems like they would. I think they took on Mrazek just to hit the floor, by the way that they're going this year.

I do agree with you on the trade to DeBrincat, the return for DeBrincat. I think it's a massive move for Ottawa. I mean, this guy, since he came into the league five years ago, top 10 scorer, goal scorer in the league. The last two years only one fewer goal than Alex Ovechkin. He's scoring goals at an elite level and Patrick Kane has a lot to do with it as his facilitator. But this is a guy who can put the puck in the net, and it's something the Ottawa Senators truly needed.

I was shocked that a guy like Kirby Dach isn't safe from a rebuild in Chicago. This guy is only 21, I think, three years into his career. Guys that are 21 and former third overall picks, not safe from a rebuild? That shows you exactly the direction that Chicago's going. It's going to get worse from here.

The return is fine on DeBrincat of if Korchinsky is Cale Makar. I mean, the return might be fine for Montreal. But again, it's just futures assets, and you have to trust that Kyle Davidson knows what he's doing. And if you look at some people's opinions on even the return on Mrazek, you would say, he doesn't know what he's doing because he's not getting market value.

I disagree with that because if you like a player, you move up and you can just store Mrazek. Why wouldn't you do it? Of course you would do it. So I don't think that's a big deal.

But I think the jury's still out on Kyle Davidson, and I think other teams are going to be able to improve themselves because of the situation in Chicago. And we saw the Habs, the Senators, and the Leafs take advantage of what's going on in that situation. So I expect more teams to get involved.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah I think if anything, Chicago is, even if they're not getting the ideal returns for guys like DeBrincat, we know they're trying to get Conner Bedard next year. And if you are a team that is nowhere near being playoff-ready, you should be doing the same thing.

You could hate on how the methods are being executed with Kyle Davidson, but you can't question the desire for him to put his team in a position where they could get the best possible player available in next year's draft, which is supposed to be better than this year's draft. And I think at the end of the day, where Chicago may want to return to at some point, it starts with who they get in next year's draft.

And who knows how much? Look, they can't be done considering some of the big salaries that they're going to have to find a way to offload over the next little while. Even if they're going to have to incur some of those cap penalties with the Duncan Keith retirement. But Kane and Toews--

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: That too.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah. For the next two years.

Once Kane and Toews are gone, that is going to-- and I'm sure we'll do a whole thing on that. But that is going to be the end of arguably the greatest-- it's weird to say greatest, but one of the most notable eras in NHL history.

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: The team of the 2010s.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah, which we now know is shrouded in controversy and scandal. But at the end of-- but also, they have Stanley Cups. So you can't-- it's a weird sense of duality when you consider what that era has endured in the 2010s, and Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are two of the biggest faces of it. So when it comes time for them to leave and Kyle Davidson to make those moves, that is going to be a wild day for fans of Chicago, and for the NHL world.

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: I don't know how they don't have these discussions right now. I don't know how--

JULIAN MCKENZIE: I think they are.

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: I don't know how they wait until-- I don't know how they wait another moment, honestly. I don't know how they start this season with Toews and Kane on the roster unless there's no takers for a Jonathan Toews, but Patrick Kane in particular.

I mean, it can't just be Bedard. As talented as Connor Bedard is, and the 80% chance that they don't get him is something to consider. But if they do get Conner Bedard, it can't just be Connor Bedard. And how else are you going to get yourselves another first round pick, other than trading Patrick Kane?

If he wants to leave, if he wants to go somewhere, you add to your haul by having that conversation as soon as possible and not waiting until next summer and asking these guys, hey, do you want to come back for $2 million? You're going to lowball these guys at the end of this? Just do right by them and try to move them this offseason, and get your futures in place. Because we after you just traded DeBrincat and Dach, for maybe underwhelming returns, that you need more. You need more if this is going to work, and Patrick Kane, in particular, is a golden ticket if there is one for Kyle Davidson.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: What about Buffalo?

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: A little history there. But--

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yes. Very much so.

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Like, a lot of history, obviously. He's a Buffalo guy, right? That would be quite the move. I don't know if Buffalo wants to be giving up futures assets even though they're on the upswing. Three first round picks this year, a core like Montreal's kind of shaping up with Cozens, and Tuch, and Krebs. But maybe not that real, real top-of-the-line guy.

So I think they have to hang around and hope that they still get that player. I do expect that they're going to be better this year, but maybe Kane's that player. Maybe he'll stick around for a little while, and all of a sudden you have the guy that knocks everyone down.

I want to see Patrick Kane play in playoff games. I'm not convinced Buffalo will be in those games. I'd like him to just come out and tell us where he wants to go, Claude Giroux style, and force Chicago to make that deal. I guess that wouldn't be great for Chicago's future prospects though.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah, especially if they're trying to make something happen just trying to offload those salaries. But again, if Patrick Kane, once the call is out, that he's asked for a trade, whether LeBrun tweets it, Saravalli tweets it, Dreger, whoever, that's going to end up being the biggest story of the NHL offseason, I think.

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Of course. I think so. I think you're right.

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