Consider the Chicago Blackhawks rebuild fully underway.
The team announced on Thursday, just hours before the start of the 2022 NHL draft, that it has traded star forward Alex DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators for three draft picks, including the No. 7 and No. 39 overall picks in 2022, as well as a third-round pick in 2023.
DeBrincat has one year remaining on his current contract at a salary cap number of $6.4 million. He will be a restricted free agent after this season and then eligible for unrestricted free agency following the 2023-24 season.
This is a massive move that will have a long-lasting impact for both teams.
From the Ottawa side, they just landed an impact player and one of the best goal scorers in the league to add to a promising young collection of forwards that already includes Tim Stutzle, Josh Norris, Brady Tkachuk, and Drake Batherson.
DeBrincat has already scored 40 goals twice (including this past season) and had another season (2020-21) where he scored 32 goals in 52 games. He is still only 24 years old and right in the middle of what should be his prime scoring years. The Senators have two years to prove they can build a winner around him and hopefully convince him to re-sign, but in the short-term they added a legit star scorer to their lineup without having to give up a single player or prospect from their organization. The No. 7 overall pick has the most value, but the odds of them using that pick on a player as good as DeBrincat are slim based on draft history.
It is a no-brainer move. Even if there is a chance that DeBrincat does not ultimately re-sign there long-term, this gives them the inside track to getting him signed and when you have a chance to add an elite talent you absolutely have to do it.
As for the Blackhawks, this is grim.
It also shows just how deep this rebuild is about to go. If you are not going to keep a 24-year-old star that is already one of the elite goal scorers in the league, then that should tell you what management thinks of this team’s short-term prospects. It should also open the door for even more significant moves in the very near future with other core players.
The Blackhawks did not have a first-round pick this season after trading it to the Columbus Blue Jackets in last year’s Seth Jones trade. That pick ended up being the No. 6 overall pick in this year’s draft.
They had to trade one of their best players to pick one pick after that, and still have Jones’ eight-year contract on the books starting this season.
The seventh overall pick is obviously the key to the deal, and there is the chance to get a pretty good player, but odds are it is not going to be a franchise changer. The No. 39 pick and next year’s third-round pick might be 50-50 bets, at best, to even become an NHL player.
If you are a Blackhawks fan this has to be as underwhelming of a return as you could have ever imagined. Which is usually what happens in these sorts of deals.