Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson had one goal and one goal only going into the 2023 trade deadline, and that's to collect as many future assets as possible. Whether he got 100 cents on the dollar for every player that was moved by Friday is up for debate, but anyone that had some sort of value was moved.
Max Domi, Patrick Kane, Sam Lafferty and Jake McCabe were all traded for draft picks. The Blackhawks weaponized their cap space by acquiring Nikita Zaitsev with draft picks as well, just like they did with the Jason Dickinson deal earlier in the season and the Petr Mrazek trade over the summer by moving up 13 spots and into the first round of the 2022 NHL Draft.
In total, the Blackhawks now have 19 draft picks in the first three rounds of the next three NHL Drafts:
- Six 1st-rounders
- Eight 2nd-rounders
- Five 3rd-rounders
One of those second-round selections is conditional that could turn into a first-round pick in 2024 or 2025 from the Kane trade. Of course, there are conditions for some other picks as well, but that's where things stand right now.
"It truly was a whirlwind," Davidson said. "It’s been a busy week, a productive week, bittersweet in many ways but really happy with what we were able to accomplish in the last little while and kind of building toward the future. So happy with how it went and at the same time really happy to be through the deadline now."
The Blackhawks are pretty well set up for the future, considering they also had three first-round picks last year and took defenseman Kevin Korchinski (No. 7), forward Frank Nazar (No. 13) and defenseman Sam Rinzel (No. 26). It's no guarantee they'll all hit, but there's optimism they could be impactful players at the NHL level.
Perhaps the one missing piece is the generational-type talent in the system. And that's the other part of the equation of this trade deadline.
The Blackhawks now have one of the thinnest rosters in the league, and it almost looks unrecognizable from what it was even just a few weeks ago. They will absolutely be in the hunt to finish with the best odds at landing the No. 1 overall pick, which would land them Connor Bedard.
The rebuild started last trade deadline when Brandon Hagel was moved for a pair of first-rounders. It got real over the offseason when Kirby Dach and Alex DeBrincat were traded for the No. 7 and No. 13 overall picks, among other picks.
Now, with no Kane and whatever was left of the supporting cast, the rebuild is in as full-swing as it could get.
To be clear, Davidson doesn't think this is necessarily fun. But he does feel like it's part of the process. The hope is that the short-term pain will eventually lead to long-term sustained success again.
"It’s not easy," Davidson said. "It’s not easy, it’s not fun trading people. Once you have the assets, and you’re looking at that draft acquisition or bringing talent in, that’s fun. Moving players out, especially the ones we did – the people they are and the players they are – it’s not a fun thing. It’s not easy. Once you get past and you look back and have the assets you do, you know it’s what needs to be done, but not easy at all."
Accumulating the draft picks is one thing. Now the hard part begins.
"We've got to do our job at the draft table," Davidson said of the next step. "We've invested in the draft process, and I have tons of trust in Mike Doneghey and our amateur scouting staff.
"Our first draft last year was a good one — was a great one, actually, I'd say. Hopefully that trend continues. But that's the way we see this thing being built is through the draft and through utilizing the draft capital that we've amassed, especially in the next draft coming up, so we'll see how that goes and see where our picks land and what kind of players we can bring in and at what positions. We'll go from there."
Click here to subscribe to the Blackhawks Talk Podcast for free.