What a potential Alex DeBrincat trade could look like for Blackhawks

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There is enough smoke around the possibility of the Chicago Blackhawks trading star winger Alex DeBrincat this offseason that we should probably be paying attention to it. And if you are a Blackhawks fan, preparing yourself for it.

On Tuesday, the Athletic’s Scott Powers outlined the reasons why the Blackhawks are likely to make such a move this offseason and it basically boils down to this (my words): The team currently stinks, the front office is ready kick off a massive rebuild that will probably require several years to make the team competitive again, and re-signing DeBrincat to a new contract after this season (he will be a restricted free agent after the 2022-23 season) that pays him upwards of $9 million per year is probably not what a rebuilding team needs at the moment.

Then there is also the fact he is — by far! — their most tradable asset which also probably assists the rebuilding effortd.

Add all of that together, and you have the potential for a blockbuster deal.

But what would such a deal look like for the Blackhawks?

As we discussed when the Buffalo Sabres were trying to go through the Jack Eichel trade these types of deals never look like anybody expects them to look. It is really difficult to trade a player of this caliber and get back an equal return. It is also difficult because there are not really many parallels to look at here for comparison because players like DeBrincat do not typically get traded.

He is not only still just 24 years old and in the prime of his career, but he is also already one of the league’s top goal scorers. For his career he’s averaged a 35-goal pace per 82 games, has already topped the 40-goal mark twice, and would almost certainly had a third 40-goal season had the 2020-21 NHL season (32 goals in 52 games) not been shortened.

Try to think of a similar player (age, talent, production) that has been traded in recent years and what that return looked like.

There’s not many to go by.

Eichel of course comes to mind as he was 25, averaged 0.37 goals per game and 0.95 points game while he was under contract for several years with a $10 million per year salary cap hit. Buffalo receieved a first-round pick, a second-round pick, Alex Tuch, and Peyton Krebs.

Patrik Laine at the time of his trade from Winnipeg to Columbus was pretty similar to DeBrincat as a goal-scorer and contractually. He and Jack Roslovic were dealt in exchange for a third-round draft pick and Pierre-Luc Dubois. The big factor here is that both Laine and Dubois wanted out of their current situations.

Taylor Hall was a former No. 1 overall pick and 24 years old when Edmonton traded him to New Jersey in a one-for-one deal for Adam Larsson.

Those are probably the most recent comparable deals.

But let’s expand on this a little more and try to take a more objective look at it. In the salary cap era there have been 35 forwards that played at least 100 games, averaged more than 0.35 goals per game, and 0.80 points per game before their 25th birthday in the NHL. DeBrincat is one of those players.

Out of the other 34, only 11 of them were traded at any point in their career (whether it be before their 25th birthday or after).

Only seven of them were traded before their 26th birthday: That list includes Tyler Seguin, Mike Cammalleri, Laine, Eichel, Hall, Bobby Ryan, and Ilya Kovalchuk.

Seguin was traded at age 20, after just his second season in the NHL.

Kovalchuk was traded as a pending unrestricted free agent.

Neither situation is totally similar to the Blackhawks and DeBrincat, but the talent level is somewhat close.

Here is what each of those seven players was traded for.

Quite the mixed bag of returns.

The Seguin trade looked fine on paper at first, but within three years Boston had literally nothing to show for it as they moved on from all four players for one reason or another. The jury is still out on the Eichel and Laine trades. The Hall trade was a disaster for Edmonton, while the Kovalchuk trade amounted to nothing but spare parts for Atlanta.

The common thread with most of these deals though is a first-round pick, a really good prospect or young NHL player, and sometimes some NHL roster filler.

It is worth keeping in mind that every situation is different. All of these players are different in some way, and it only takes one team to make a big offer to blow Chicago out of the water. But there is still uncertainty with DeBrincat in terms of a contract as whatever team would trade for him would have to sign him to a new contract, and it will need the salary cap space for that. That might take some teams out of the running.

If the Blackhawks do decide to go all in with a rebuild and deal DeBrincat there should be no shortage of interested teams. New Jersey, Buffalo, and Detroit need something to jumpstart their rebuild. Calgary might have to replace Johnny Gaudreau. Los Angeles and the New York Islanders need another star. What that trade looks like though remains to be seen. But there is at least a potential framework out there based on similar deals in the salary cap era.

Can Chicago do better than any of those?

We might find out in the coming weeks.

Golden Knights take 2-0 lead in Stanley Cup Final with 7-2 win over Panthers

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

LAS VEGAS – Jonathan Marchessault scored twice and started an early blitz that chased the NHL’s hottest postseason goalie, and the Vegas Golden Knights seized control of the Stanley Cup Final with a 7-2 victory over the Florida Panthers in Game 2 on Monday night.

Adin Hill continued his stellar play in net with 29 saves for the Golden Knights, who grabbed a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

“We finished some plays,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “It’s a good performance for us. Our guys were ready to play.”

Marchessault also had an assist to finish with three points. His 12 postseason goals set a Golden Knights record, with all coming after the first round.

Brett Howden scored twice for the Knights, who also got goals from Alec Martinez, Nicolas Roy and Michael Amadio. Six players had at least two points for Vegas, all 18 Knights skaters were on the ice for even-strength goals and their nine goal scorers through the first two games are a Stanley Cup Final record. The Knights’ seven goals tied a franchise mark for a playoff game.

It was too much for Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who was removed 7:10 into the second period down 4-0. It was the fifth time in 12 games the Knights have chased the opposing goalie.

“We can be a little better in front of our goaltender,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “I got him out to keep him rested.”

Matthew Tkachuk and Anton Lundell scored for Florida.

Teams that take a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final are 31-3 in the expansion era. The Panthers will try to buck history beginning with Game 3 on Thursday in Sunrise, Florida.

Hill once again brought his feistiness as well as his A-game. He stopped Carter Verhaeghe on a breakaway in the first, and later that period hit Tkachuk, who was in his net, with his blocker and then slashed him with his stick.

“He’s been unreal for us,” Vegas forward William Carrier said. “He’s been unbelievable.”

The Knights were dominant early, taking a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals from Marchessault and Martinez. It was Vegas’ third game in a row with a power-play goal, its first such stretch since Christmas week.

The Panthers lost their biggest, toughest defenseman early in the game when Radko Gudas was injured on a hit by Vegas forward Ivan Barbashev. Gudas left 6:39 in and did not return.

That was one of several big hits by Barbashev, the Golden Knights’ biggest trade-deadline acquisition, a Stanley Cup champion with St. Louis in 2019. Barbashev broke the sternum of Colorado defenseman Samuel Girard during the playoffs last year, also on a clean hit.

Vegas had its own scare late in the second period when Jack Eichel was nailed in the right shoulder by Tkachuk. Eichel returned in the third and set up Marchessault’s second goal for his second assist of the game.

“We did a good job managing momentum tonight,” Eichel said. “And we got some timely goals.”

Ducks hire former Leafs, Islanders assistant Greg Cronin as head coach

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Anaheim Ducks have hired veteran NHL assistant and AHL head coach Greg Cronin to be their new head coach.

Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek announced the decision to hire the 60-year-old Cronin, who will be a first-time NHL head coach.

Cronin has 12 years of experience as an NHL assistant with the Toronto Maple Leafs and in two stints with the New York Islanders. The Massachusetts native has been the head coach of the AHL’s Colorado Eagles since 2018, and he spent six years as a collegiate head coach at Northeastern.

Verbeek called Cronin “the ideal fit” to take over a young, rebuilding team.

“I felt we needed a teacher of the finer points of the game, and someone who has worked extensively over time with talented young players, helping them develop into successful NHL players,” Verbeek said. “Greg has done all that and more.”

Cronin replaces Dallas Eakins, whose contract wasn’t renewed in April after the Ducks finished their fourth consecutive losing season of his tenure. Anaheim finished in last place in the overall NHL standings at 23-47-12.

The Ducks never finished higher than sixth in the Pacific Division during Eakins’ four years in charge. They’ve missed the playoffs in a franchise-record five straight seasons, and Anaheim was the NHL’s worst defensive team of the 21st century by several measures during the just-completed season.

Cronin takes over a struggling team that is still loaded with young talent, including the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming draft and a wealth of farm prospects seemingly ready to break into the NHL. Anaheim has a solid long-term base with playmaking center Trevor Zegras, two-time All-Star Troy Terry and promising forward Mason McTavish.

Cronin has never led an NHL bench, but he interviewed for the Boston Bruins’ vacancy a year ago.

He becomes only the Ducks’ fourth permanent head coach since Henry and Susan Samueli bought the franchise from Disney in 2005, joining Randy Carlyle, Bruce Boudreau and Eakins.

Canadiens sign Cole Caufield to 8-year, $62.8 million extension

David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens signed Cole Caufield to an eight-year, $62.8 million contract extension.

The deal, which will pay the 22-year-old winger an average annual salary of $7.85 million, runs through the 2030-31 season.

Caufield scored 26 goals and added 10 assists in 46 games in 2022-23 before he underwent season-ending surgery on his right shoulder in February.

Despite missing nearly half the season, Caufield led the Canadiens in goals for the second consecutive season, tied with Nick Suzuki.

Montreal selected Caufield in the first round (15th overall) of the 2019 draft.

Since making his NHL debut in 2020-21, the forward has 84 points (53 goals, 31 assists) in 123 NHL games.

Vegas Golden Knights come back to beat Florida Panthers in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

LAS VEGAS – Back in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in five years and trailing the Florida Panthers less than 10 minutes into Game 1, the Vegas Golden Knights sent a very clear message.

“We were ready,” Jonathan Marchessault said.

Ready and dominant. Vegas rallied from an early deficit, got the go-ahead goal from Zach Whitecloud with just over 13 minutes left and arguably the best save of the playoffs from Adin Hill and beat Florida 5-2 Saturday night to take the lead in the best-of-seven series.

“We kept out composure, and it was good,” said Marchessault, one of six original Knights players left from the start of the franchise in 2017 who scored the tying goal in the first period. “We just wanted to play the right way and be disciplined, and tonight we were able to be the better team.”

Whitecloud put Vegas ahead, a crucial penalty kill followed and captain Mark Stone scored an insurance goal that was reviewed for a high stick and confirmed. Reilly Smith sealed it with an empty-netter to make the score look more lopsided than the game.

The combination of that offense and Hill’s 33 saves put Vegas up after a feisty opener between Sun Belt teams who wasted little time getting acquainted with big hits during play and plenty of post-whistle pushing and shoving.

“It’s exactly what we expected,” said Vegas defenseman Shea Theodore, who scored his first goal of the playoffs and ended a 27-game drought dating to March 7. “That’s how they wanted to play. We were just trying not to play into it.”

That stuff is just beginning. Game 2 is Monday in Las Vegas.

Before the Panthers even get a chance to respond, they ratcheted up the physical play late after falling behind by two. A handful of penalties resulting from a fracas with 4:24 remaining left the Florida bench well short.

The outcome was determined long before that.

After falling behind on a short-handed goal by Eric Staal that sucked the life out of the crowd of 18,432, the Golden Knights rallied for their ninth comeback win this playoffs. Marchessault – known since arriving in Las Vegas for scoring big goals – answered before the end of the first period.

Early in the second, Hill made a desperation stick save to rob Nick Cousins of what would have been a sure goal. The save was reminiscent of the one Washington’s Braden Holtby made against Vegas – in the same crease – five years ago.

“That’s an unreal save – it’s a game-changer,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “You need those saves at key moments.”

Giving up a tying goal to Anthony Duclair with 10.2 seconds left in the second did not slow the Golden Knights’ momentum much. Whitecloud’s goal, with two-time Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky screened and unable to see, fired up fans once again.

Bobrovsky, in the final for the first time, downplayed any reason for concern after stopping 29 of 34 shots and losing for just the second time in 12 games this postseason.

“I played a good game,” Bobrovsky said. “I played a solid game. They created some good chances other than goals. They had lots of good scoring chances, and that was fun.”

Part of the fun came when play was stopped.

Less than 10 minutes in, Hill was none too happy about Nick Cousins crashing into his crease and gave the agitating Panthers winger a jab that incited a handful of scrums. During the second period, Matthew Tkachuk let Vegas’ Nic Hague know he wasn’t thrilled about a hit in the corner on Cousins and a collision with Brandon Montour after the whistle.

“If guys are going to come in my crease and try to push me around, I’m going to stand my own ground,” Hill said. “I’m not going to do anything too crazy or get too wild, but, yeah, I’ve got to stand up for myself.”

Florida coach Paul Maurice, back in the final for the first time since 2001, displayed a similarly calm demeanor as he did all the way back in the first round, when his team fell behind 1-0 then 3-1 to NHL-best Boston before winning in seven.

“It’s going to be tight,” Maurice said. “Everybody breathe.”

The Golden Knights are in the final for the second time in six years of existence, five years after making it in their inaugural season. Vegas won the opener in 2018 and lost the series to Washington in five games.

The Panthers are back playing for the Cup for the first time since 1996. Florida got swept by Colorado in that final 27 years ago, 18 months before Tkachuk, the team’s leading scorer this playoffs, was born.

It’s the 66th different matchup of teams in the Cup final in NHL history and the 46th since the expansion era began in 1967-68. This is the first time since Washington-Vegas and just the third time since the turn of the century in which the final features two teams who have never won the league’s championship.