With the 2021 NHL Season looking to get underway within a few weeks and a boatload of serviceable free agents still on the market, teams need to start making moves to fill out their rosters and that includes the Chicago Blackhawks.
Before we begin, yes I know the Chicago Blackhawks have an overabundance of forwards on their roster right now, but they just lost Brandon Saad in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche. That trade hurts, as Saad was one of the few two-way forwards left in the Chicago organization. This transaction also results in the left-wing spot on the 1st line being wide open for the Blackhawks.
Sure, Alex DeBrincat could just slot into the role, but why break up the line of DeBrincat, Kirby Dach, and Patrick Kane that had so much success in the playoffs? If you factor in Dylan Strome remaining unsigned, this leaves the Hawks with some salary-cap flexibility that many teams in the league do not have at the moment.
There is one guy currently on the open market that could slot in almost perfectly on the Hawks’ first line left-wing void, and that would be Mikael Granlund.
Player Breakdown/Career History
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Granlund is a 5’10” two-way forward from Oulu, Finland. So far, Granlund has spent his entire career playing for division rivals of the Blackhawks. He was selected in the 1st round (#9 Overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Minnesota Wild. After breaking into the league in the 2012-13 NHL Season, Mikael quickly asserted himself to be one of the bright young talents in the league.
In his first full season with Minnesota, he scored 8 goals while contributing 33 assists for a total of 41 points. He then took off, ripping off consecutive seasons with 65+ points in 16′-17′, and in 17′-18′. In 2016-17, he also received All-Star Game votes and finished 13th in voting for the prestigious Selke Trophy.
Even after all the success with Minnesota, the Wild chose to ship out the young star to the Nashville Predators in a trade deadline deal that occurred on February 25, 2019. After his move to Nashville, Granlund has struggled to regain the mojo that he had displayed during his time with the Wild.
In his first 16 games played with the Predators, Mikael only had 1 goal and 4 assists for 5 points. This past season he only scored 17 goals and provided 13 helpers, which equivalates to 30 points in 63 games played. It was evident that something wasn’t working for the Finnish talent in the Music City and a change would be needed for Granlund.
Now with the 2021 NHL Season rapidly approaching, Mikael currently remains unsigned. This is surprising considering he is still only 28 years old and has had some success in the past. With teams being salary crunched due to the pandemic, many are out of the running to get Granlund’s signature. Based on his numbers with Nashville, he more than likely wouldn’t break the bank for a team looking for a restoration project. This is where the Blackhawks come in.
Fit with Blackhawks
The ‘Hawks have had a pretty decent track record at restoration projects in the past, just look at how Strome and Dominik Kubalik (a former 7th round draft selection) have turned out. They have flourished with the change in scenery and I believe that Granlund could do the same.
During his spell with the Wild, Granlund spent the majority of the time on the left-wing, with Mikko Koivu centering their line. If you compare Koivu to Jonathan Toews, it’s scary how many similarities the pair have. They both are really good at winning draws in the faceoff dot, and both have been nominated for the Selke Trophy multiple times.
If Granlund had his best career numbers playing on that line with Koivu, it’s hard to imagine him not being able to produce playing on a line with Toews. Plus, if the rest of the first line remains the same, Granlund would have a European connection with Kubalik as well.
He also is a very similar player to what Saad provided in terms of two-way play. Granlund is reliable defensively for a forward, as he has registered 345 blocked shots, laid 371 hits, and generated 267 takeaways in his 540 games played. Mikael would provide the Blackhawks with a play style that they have desperately needed ever since Marian Hossa‘s heartbreaking departure.
So what do you think Hawks fans? If the Blackhawks can clear up the cap space and make the numbers work, would you want the Hawks to take a run at signing the European talent on a cheap deal, or should they pass on him and roll with their current roster?