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NHL Trade Deadline Primer: Hoping for a Dominik Kubalik bounce back

NHL Trade Deadline Rumors Dominik Kubalik

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - FEBRUARY 25: Dominik Kubalik #8 of the Chicago Blackhawks controls the puck during a game against the New Jersey Devils at United Center on February 25, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

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The 2022 NHL Trade Deadline is Monday, March 21 at 3 p.m. ET. As we get closer to the deadline we will take a look at some individual players who could be on the move. We continue today with Chicago Blackhawks forward Dominik Kubalik.

With the Chicago Blackhawks at the bottom of the Western Conference standings and a new general manager talking about rebuilding and a “three or five year” process it seems like a given that they are going to be sellers at the trade deadline. The question is simply how much are they willing to sell. Starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is the most impactful name on the roster, while Brandon Hagel might bring them back the biggest return outside of dealing one of their big-three (Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Alex DeBrincat). But Dominik Kubalik might be the most likely player to get traded over the next week-and-a-half.

Kubalik burst onto the scene in Chicago as a rookie during the 2019-20 season with 30 goals in only 68 games, resulting in a third-place finish in the Calder Trophy voting behind defensemen Cale Makar (Colorado Avalanche) and Quinn Hughes (Vancouver Canucks). For as promising as that season was, there were some things to have pause over when it came to projecting his long-term value. For starters, he was already 24 years old, which is typically around the time scorers hit their peak. He also had a 19.7 percent shooting percentage for the season, which is unsustainably high long term.

Over the next two years his production has steadily dropped across the board, to the point where he has 11 goals and 21 points in 59 games this season (a 15-goal, 29-point pace over 82 games).

Instead of being a top-line winger, he is probably more of a middle-six option. That still has some value.

What the return might look like

Probably not all that significant. Not only is Kubalik having a down year and regressing for a second straight year offensively, but he is also a restricted free agent after this season and is going to require a qualifying offer of around $4 million. Is it a guarantee somebody wants to commit to that right now? It would probably come down to what he does over the remainder of the regular season and the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Blackhawks are reportedly hoping to get a second-round pick for him, but do not be surprised if he goes for even less given all of the variables. He is a goal scorer that right now is not scoring a lot of goals and is about to make more money next season.

The most logical landing spots

• New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers

The Rangers have some serious depth needs but they also have the ability to aim for something more and maybe swing for the fences given their trade assets and gobs of salary cap space. If you could land any player available, why set your sights here? But, they do need additional depth scoring and Kubalik is one of the many options.

The Penguins are definitely in the market for a middle-six winger given the struggles of Kasperi Kapanen. General manager Ron Hextall seems reluctant to part with his first-round pick and they do not have a ton of salary cap space to work with, so Kubalik could be an option. Hextall also reportedly would like a player with term remaining on his contract (the Penguins might lose Bryan Rust after this season in free agency) and while Kubalik is not currently under contract, he is still a restricted free agent.

As for the Oilers, well, who really knows. They have played better under Jay Woodcroft but they still have a lot of issues with forward depth, defense, and goaltending. They need everything just to make the playoffs. The question is whether or not general manager Ken Holland wants to address any of it.

Wild Card team: Los Angeles Kings

The Kings are better than most expected and look to be in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot thanks to some big offseason additions (Philip Danault and Viktor Arvidsson). Kubalik’s career started with the Kings organization (seventh round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft) before being traded in 2019 for a fifth-round draft pick. The Kings could use absolutely use a little extra depth and Kubalik would be a cheap roll of the dice to see if they could catch some lightning in a bottle.

Spot I want to see just for fun: Florida Panthers

Not their most pressing need but it would be fun if they could get him back on track the way they have with Anthony Duclair and Sam Bennett. Every player they acquire these days seems to put it all together there.

NHL Trade Deadline prediction

The Kings strengthen their playoff push and add Kubalik for a second-round pick hoping that he can rediscover some of his goal scoring touch with a fresh start.