Recently, my Inside The Rink colleague Clifton Ramey published an article in regards to the LA Kings acquiring left winger Alex DeBrincat from the Chicago Blackhawks (you can read it here: Opinion: Should The Kings Trade For DeBrincat). As someone who follows the LA Kings, it immediately piqued my interest, and although this is pure speculation at this point, it is interesting nonetheless. Before looking at potential trade scenarios, why would the Blackhawks be looking to move someone of DeBrincats caliber in the first place?
After winning three Stanley Cups in the 2010s, the Chicago Blackhawks have fallen on hard times. As the Rolling Stones once said, “time waits for no one,” and the only players left from the cup-winning teams are Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Toews and Kane are entering the last season of their contracts, and so is DeBrincat. The difference is Toews and Kane will be unrestricted free agents while DeBrincat will be a restricted free agent. On the surface, one would think the Blackhawks would want to make every effort to re-sign DeBrincat, who is just twenty-four-years-old and has this to show for a career stat line:
|NHL Totals||368||160||147||307||67||NHL Playoff Totals||9||2||4||6||9|
That is one impressive body of work, especially on a team that has not been successful in recent years. According to Ramey’s article, however, “With the report from Elliotte Friedman that Chicago is willing to listen on any player not named Kane, Toews, or Seth Jones, an eerie feeling was cast on the Alex DeBrincat extension front. Kyle Davidson made it clear that he will trade any player if a team can rock his socks off”. With a statement like that, it’s not a surprise that trade rumors involving a player like DeBrincat could get started. Who doesn’t love a good trade rumor, so we’re going to have some fun and play; let’s make a deal?
On one side, representing the Chicago Blackhawks, we have my colleague Mr. Ramey. According to his article, here is what a trade involving DeBrincat heading to Los Angeles would look like.
- LA Kings acquire:
- Alex DeBrincat
- 2022 Minnesota Second-round pick
- 2022 Edmonton Third-round pick or (Kubalik or Kurashev)
- Chicago Blackhawks acquire:
- Quinton Byfield
- Kings 2022 First-round Pick
- Kings 2023 First-round Pick / A grade prospect
The name that jumps off the screen here, other than, of course, DeBrincat, is Quinton Byfield. Drafted number two overall in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft by the Kings, Byfield projects to be the sure-fire number one center every team covets. Byfield turns twenty this summer and appears to have a very bright NHL future ahead of him.
You have to give to get, but including Byfield in this deal just doesn’t work for the LA Kings. Yes, the Kings could use more offense as they were twentieth in the league this season in goals scored, and DeBrincat would certainly help that. The problem is Anze Kopitar, the King’s perennial number one center, turns thirty-five this summer and showed signs this season of beginning to slow down. He is under contract for two more seasons which should give Byfield enough development time to be ready to take over the number one center spot (or be darn close). Ultimately, a center like Byfield does not come along every draft, and it’s hard to imagine LA giving him up as they enter their contending window, let alone throwing in two first-round picks along with him.
Even though Quinton Byfield will not be included, it does not mean this deal has to die. The LA Kings possess a top-five prospect group league-wide and have plenty of options to work with. In this group are several more first-round picks and also young players who gained NHL experience this season. With that said, this is my proposal for the potential trade involving Alex DeBrincat.
LA Kings receive:
- Alex DeBrincat
Chicago Blackhawks receive:
- LA Kings 2022 or 2023 first-round draft pick (Hawks choice)
- Center Gabriel Vilardi
- Center Alex Turcotte
- Defenseman Sean Walker, defenseman Helge Grans, or rights to defenseman Brock Faber (Hawks choice of Faber or Grans)
- LA Kings 2023 third-round draft pick
You’ll notice in this scenario that the Kings are acquiring only Alex DeBrincat and foregoing getting draft picks in return. The reason being is over the past few years; LA had built up a massive amount of draft picks while restocking and building up their prospect pool. Now that they are emerging from their rebuild, the need for stockpiling draft picks is no longer there, and they can now use draft picks to acquire proven talent.
Onto what the Blackhawks are getting in return. As you can see, they are getting a first-round draft pick, but the nice thing here is they are getting flexibility with that pick. If they take the King’s pick in this year’s draft, they’ll have the number nineteen overall pick. They can take a chance on the Kings regressing next season and their 2023 first-round pick, which, if the team does falter, could potentially be a lottery pick (assuming conditions of the pick do include lottery protection). LA is also including their 2023 third-round pick to give the Blackhawks at least six picks in the first three rounds of the 2023 draft.
Gabriel (Gabe) Vilardi was drafted eleventh overall by the Kings in 2017. The six-foot-three-inch tall and 215 pounds center will turn twenty-three this summer; he was projected as a top-three pick in his draft year but fell to the Kings at eleven because of a back injury. It took over a year away from hockey, but Vilardi is fully recovered from the injury. This past season, he split his time between the NHL and AHL, and he struggled to find consistency in Los Angeles; he was dominant in the American Hockey League. In thirty-nine games for the Ontario Reign, he had thirty-eight points and looked every bit the top-six forward he is projected to be.
Alex Turcotte was taken fifth overall by the Kings in the 2019 draft. Turcotte is also a center who can play on the wing and is known for his motor, complete 200 feet game, and high hockey IQ. The biggest problem the twenty-one-year-old has is staying healthy. Although none of his injuries have been career-threatening, he has not played a full season of hockey since the 2017-28 season. If he can get over his health issues, he still projects as a solid NHL player, and he grew up in the Chicago area. In Turcotte, the Blackhawks would have a potential hometown fan favorite on top of what could be a fixture in their lineup for years to come.
Right-shot defenseman Sean Walker has played four seasons in the NHL, all for the Kings. The twenty-seven-year-old had been a fixture in the top four of the Los Angeles defense corps, but his 2021-22 season was ended after suffering a knee injury. He will be ready to go for next season and has two seasons remaining on a contract that carries a reasonable cap hit of $2.65 million per season. Chicago is looking for prospects to re-supply their system, but they also need players that play in the National Hockey League right now, and Walker fits the bill.
Helge Grans is another right-shot defenseman who some had projected as a low first-round pick in the 2020 draft before falling to the Kings in the second round. The twenty-year-old native of Sweden played his first professional season this year for the Ontario Reign of the AHL. He has the size (six feet three inches tall and 205 pounds) and tools to be a top-four NHL defenseman but needs more time to develop and refine his game.
Right-shot defenseman Brock Faber was also drafted in the second round of the 2020 draft by Los Angeles. He has yet to sign with the team, however, as he played his last two seasons at the University of Minnesota and intends to return for his junior season. He’s not quite as big as Grans (Faber is six feet tall and weighs 195 pounds), but his calling card is his outstanding defensive play. Faber is considered to be one of the best defenders in college hockey and could turn pro as soon as his season with the Golden Gophers is over.
There you have it, folks. Even though the Blackhawks would not get Quinton Byfield, this is still a very solid package for a team that is clearly in a rebuild and provides flexibility as well. It includes a first-round pick, two former first-round picks, a proven NHL defenseman, and another potential solid defenseman. The Kings, of course, get the goal-scorer winger that they need to get to the next level. With names like Filip Forsberg and Johnny Gaudreau potentially hitting the unrestricted free agent market this summer, LA could choose to go that route and continue to hang on to their first-round pick and prospects. Not many teams have the draft picks and prospects to make a deal like this happen, so the Blackhawks will be limited in their choice of trading partners should they choose to move DeBrincat.
Do we have a deal?