It might seem strange this time around for Chicago Blackhawks fans, but their team is not a contender this spring for a Stanley Cup... However, general manager Stan Bowman made some impressive moves during Monday's trade deadline, and many others may be coming this summer.
On Monday, Bowman traded forward Ryan Hartman to the Nashville Predators. The Hawks were seeking quite a big bundle in return for Hartman, reportedly asking for a first-round pick plus something else, and their demand was respected. The return was met as the Predators sent back a first-rounder, right wing prospect Victor Edjsell and a fourth-rounder in 2018.
Now, for just the second time since 2001, the Hawks have two first-round picks to use following the Hartman trade. The last time the Hawks managed to select twice in the first was in 2011, when Mark McNeill (18th overall) and Phillip Danault (26th) were picked. On Monday, Chicago also traded veteran forward Tommy Wingels to the Boston Bruins for a fifth round pick.
As SB Nation Second City Hockey reports, the Hawks have more in store, planning a potential Cup run with smart moves ahead:
"Not only does Bowman have some flexibility with the prospects in the organization, he could also have more wiggle room underneath the salary cap, which is expected to rise from its current ceiling of $75 million. For the first time in what feels like a decade, Chicago could be in a place to add proven NHL talent instead of gambling on young players to make the leap into becoming solid professional players."
At the upcoming NHL draft, the Hawks could choose to draft picks and prospects, seeing that they now hold a bundle, and could cash in on NHL-ready players for the season to come. SB Nation Second City Hockey uses powerful examples to make any Blackhawks fan dream of the next postseason:
"Take one moment and imagine how great Erik Karlsson would look in a Hawks sweater ... then put it away because that just seems too far-fetched. But perhaps Oliver Ekman-Larsson decides the Arizona Coyotes’ rebuild isn’t going fast enough? Maybe the Tampa Bay Lightning have to unload Ryan McDonagh after this season their run at the 2018 Stanley Cup? Or get really aggressive and pry Noah Hanifin away from the Carolina Hurricanes before that team has to give him a raise off the entry-level deal that expires this summer."
And don't forget another move that could be coming to Chicago as early as this summer. According to a report from Scott Powers of The Athletic the Blackhawks are expected to sign NCAA superstar Dylan Sikura to an entry-level contract when his season with Northeastern University finishes.
Sikura is a former sixth round pick (178th overall) of the Hawks from the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Since then, the native of Aurora, Ontario has had a stellar college career with Northeastern. The 22-year-old forward has 17 goals and 48 points in 31 games this season, following up on his remarkable 21 goal, 57 point season from a year ago.
DobberProspects.com’s Tony Carr projects the 6’0”, 165 lb Sikura to be a bottom-six forward in the NHL with some offensive upside. He’ll need to add some muscle and bulk to his 6 foot frame, but once he does he could become the Hawks’ next version of Andrew Shaw or David Bolland.
With the Hawks clearly out of the playoff picture, the team would be smart to audition some of their younger players, including Sikura. Established youngsters like Alex DeBrincat, Vinnie Hinostroza and Matthew Highmore should continue to see some ice time, but don’t be surprised if John Hayden, Nathan Noel and the recently acquired Ejdsell see some action, as well.
Looks quite promising in Chicago!