There’s plenty of Blackhawks chatter to talk about in advance of Wednesday’s trade deadline, and even some topics that aren’t necessarily related to the deadline. Let’s get to it.
Are the rookies growing fast enough to warrant not participating in the trade deadline? -- @Rileyrsm
I wouldn’t exactly use the term “not participating.” The Hawks are feeling out different offers and making calls, but I wouldn’t say the Hawks are going to be major players. General manager Stan Bowman has given every indication both publicly and in talks with other teams that he likes his current team – and what’s not to like after the February the Hawks have had? The Hawks could still add a piece or two before the deadline, but I don’t expect them to be among teams throwing around high draft picks or highly-valued prospects this season. I think the rookies, specifically Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman, have come through in a big way over the last month or two and turned a corner in their development as NHL-level players. No longer are they just trying to stick around the team – they are looking to contribute in a major way. Schmaltz’s development leads to our next question.
Is Schmaltz a final answer as a top line wing? And would (KHL prospect Maxim) Shalunov be a good playoff idea or a wait until training camp idea? – @Csquared317
Your first question is a big one going forward for the Hawks. Can you trust Schmaltz as a top line winger with Jonathan Toews in April? Every indication right now is yes, but you don’t want to overreact to a small sample size of games. Schmaltz is still a rookie and hasn’t played this volume of games in his career. He is prone to the ups and downs of a rookie season in the NHL. But right now the top line of him, Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik look unstoppable, and it allows coach Joel Quenneville to drop down Marian Hossa and balance out the Hawks’ four lines better. I’m buying the top line’s production as more than just a flash in the pan. In my two years on the beat, I haven’t seen a Toews line look this good and I think it warrants keeping together over the long term, even if Quenneville breaks them up occasionally.
As for your second question, there’s too much uncertainty right now with Shalunov’s contract situation, but if you can bring him over and you think he can contribute in the playoffs, why not give it a shot?
Who do the Hawks lose at the expansion draft? -- @CaldarellaC
I imagine I’ll be answering this question from now until late June. To recap, they can either protect seven forwards and three defensemen, or four forwards and four defensemen, plus a goaltender. They have to protect players with no-movement clauses, Those players are forwards Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Artem Anisimov, Marian Hossa, defensemen Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson and goaltender Corey Crawford.
Without getting bogged down in too many dry details of other expansion draft requirements, I don’t think the Hawks want to lose Ryan Hartman and will find a way to keep him. They can make a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights to relinquish a draft pick in exchange for not selecting a certain player if they don’t protect him. I think the main targets the Hawks will leave exposed will be Trevor van Riemsdyk and Marcus Kruger. Losing Kruger’s cap hit of approximately $3.1 million wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen with Artemi Panarin’s $6-million per year extension kicking in next season.
Is it likely that Alex DeBrincat is on the roster next season? -- @eeks63
I’d lean toward yes right now. The Hawks are certainly intrigued by DeBrincat’s scoring ability in the Ontario Hockey League and as they like to say, the ability to score goals is not something you can teach easily. Bowman said recently DeBrincat has “elite” talent. The only issue is his size and strength. So long as DeBrincat develops throughout the summer, I’d expect him to get a look next season.
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