What’s almost as exciting as the Stanley Cup playoffs? If you said nothing, you aren’t wrong, but if you said off-season trade speculation, then you’re also correct. Right now, the Blackhawks are in the thick of it when it comes to (hypothetically) making big signings and trades. They’d have to be, the team has holes all over the lineup, but there are a couple of quality players whose names could be very interesting to Chicago.
Both Seth Jones and Dougie Hamilton will likely be talking to other teams this summer, and maybe even signing a new deal. However, Stan Bowman should probably pass on them. Both veteran defensemen are great players, and either one would quickly be an upgrade to the Chicago Blackhawks’ blueline. The problems arise with issues like a contract, age, and where exactly Chicago is in their rebuild.
These aren’t exactly cut-and-dry issues either. As the off-season progresses, Chicago has to try and determine who is going to be the best possible fit several years from now. Complicating this even further is that the entire league is dealing with a flat cap, and that cap will be in place for a yet-to-be-determined amount of time.
Signing a player for future gains is a gamble. Proof? Look no further than Brent Seabrook. He was paid well for his contributions to the team. He’s often touted as a great leader and has been an influential player among his teammates. The contract that was his reward is now weighing down the team mightily. No one could have predicted that his decline as a player would happen as quickly as it did, but the damage is done. This is an extreme example, but it demonstrates why projecting for the future is both difficult and (potentially) perilous.
However, Chicago has no choice but to look to free agency to solve their defensive woes, at least for now. As 2020-21 demonstrated, Chicago has a lot of competent depth in their system. That’s the problem though, none of these players projects to be a top-pairing defenseman except for maybe Adam Boqvist. If Chicago wants to be a more competitive team, then the Blackhawks have no choice but to take a risk on a free agent.
That’s what makes the big-name players so enticing, especially since Chicago likely will have the cap space to sign them. Should they make these kinds of moves now though? Will signing Hamilton or Jones really put Chicago back on the path to the become Stanley Cup Champions?