Over the last couple of years, the Chicago Blackhawks have gone for it at the trade deadline. Last season, they made moves with Winnipeg and Montreal to land forwards Andrew Ladd, Dale Weise, and Tomas Fleischmann while the year before that, they dealt for center Antoine Vermette and defenseman Kimmo Timonen. In the process, they moved first and second round picks in each of those seasons (though the second rounder to Montreal last year was a 2018 pick). The Hawks are once again near the top of the NHL standings, but as ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun writes, they’re not expected to be as willing to move picks for that final piece or two again this season.
There are a couple of reasons for the plan to not be as aggressive moving their picks this year. For starters, they are pretty much capped out – they sit less than $50K under the cap according to CapFriendly – so unless the team trades away a big salary (unlikely given that they’re not expected to be sellers) or someone gets hurt long-term opening up some potential LTIR relief, they’re not going to have a whole lot of money to work with.
The other main reason is that Chicago is hosting the draft in June and are looking to hold on to as many picks as possible to make the event as fun for the hometown fans as possible. The Blackhawks have ten selections so far and as GM Stan Bowman noted, they’ve been stocking up on picks for this year by design:
“We did that on purpose. We do have a lot; we want to make a splash out of it. Hopefully it will work out well. I don’t know if it’s a great draft; early returns are mixed on it. But there are always players in the draft.”
Barring any changes to their cap situation, Chicago will more or less be forced to be on the sidelines on the trade market this season. Instead, they’ll be looking to their rookie class (which consists of forwards Nick Schmaltz, Tyler Motte, Vincent Hinostroza, and Ryan Hartman as well as blueliners Gustav Forsling and Michal Kempny) to take steps forward between now and the end of the season with their progression acting basically as their in-season or trade deadline acquisitions.
[Related: Blackhawks Depth Chart]