As previously covered, the Chicago Blackhawks have the courtesy of picking eighth overall in the upcoming 2018 NHL draft. However, what seems to have slipped by most people’s minds is the fact that Chicago actually has TWO first round draft picks. The second first rounder comes courtesy of the Nashville Predators in a trade deadline acquisition that saw Ryan Hartman and a 5th round pick leave for a first rounder, a fourth rounder and Victor Edjsell, a prospect center.
While the NHL’s draft lottery saw where the first 15 teams were picking, the rest of the group had to wait until each loss in the Stanley Cup Finals to determine where they would be picking. As a result of the Predators losing to the Winnipeg Jets, the Blackhawks saw that they would have the 27th overall pick due to the stunning result.
Having two first round draft picks will always be a luxury. The Blackhawks now have a plethora of options available as the team attempts to rebound from a disappointing year. The team has several glaring holes that need to be addressed if they are going to make a return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Only time will tell what happens, but these are the most likely options for the team to improve.
Trade Them Both: This is the boldest option, and one that will most likely not happen. However, the Blackhawks are going into free agency with some cash to spend, and they are most likely going to look at upgrading the defense. The problem is there aren’t many outstanding blue liners heading to free agency this year, with the Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson the most coveted, and most expensive, piece out there. Therefore, Chicago might look to trade for some big names, like Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators.
There have been rumors swirling that Karlsson wants out of Ottawa, and even though he only has one year left on his contract, Ottawa might let that happen. His salary cap hit is $6.5 million, which would be pushing Chicago to the top, but general manager Stan Bowman can navigate it like nobody’s business. Don’t expect this option to happen though, as the Blackhawks have seen what trying to go “all in” does, and trading away a top 10 draft pick isn’t something that can be explained easily.
Keep 8th, Trade 27th: Now we’re stepping into territory that is plausible. There’s no question that Chicago would like to keep their top 10 pick, especially considering that it could reap a player (preferably a defenseman) that would immediately benefit the team. However, there is no reason to suggest that the team won’t try and swing a deal to offload some of the sizable contracts, offering their other first rounder as bait. Even though it’s a late first rounder, there will always be golden nuggets found outside the top ten. Brandon Saad, Alex DeBrincat, Duncan Keith, and P.K. Subban are all players that were picked in the second round, so there is definitely talent to be discovered. Plus, this pick would most likely be used to free up some more salary for Chicago, who has several questionable contracts.
There is no question that Brent Seabrook’s contract with Chicago is disgustingly high. He’s being paid nearly $7 million to anchor a third-line pairing. Any time he tries to step up into a higher role, he appears to get exposed and performs horribly. If Chicago can offload his contract, even at the cost of their other first round pick, it would free up significant space for the team to make a splash in free agency. That scenario is unlikely, but it wouldn’t be unrealistic to see Chicago trade their other first rounder in an attempt to offload some salary.
If they do go through this option, the player that will most likely be traded is Artem Anisimov. The problem is that he has a no-movement clause that he can use to prevent a trade. However, that option opens up for Chicago on July 1, when it becomes a partial no trade clause. That’s when he will most likely be traded, if he is at all.
Keep them both: Let’s be honest, this is probably the most realistic option for Chicago. Even though they could use the first rounder acquired from the Predators to benefit the team salary cap-wise, that would leave the team only one pick in the first two rounds. Thanks to a previous trade, Chicago doesn’t have a second round draft pick this year. That could change come draft night, but for the time being this is what they have to work with. The team knows what holes need to be addressed, and having two selections in the first round usually offers the best chance to fix that.
Chicago desperately needs defensive help, and while their top two selections from last year’s NHL draft, Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell, are promising prospects, they’re at best one or two years away from stepping into an every day role. That’s not to say that their first two picks this year are immediately going to step into a starting role, but it will give Chicago the best chance to beef up their depth chart and build for the future.
Unless another team drastically blows Chicago away with a trade offer, look for the team to hold onto both of their picks. There is going to be talent up and down this draft, even outside of Rasmus Dahlin, the consensus number one prospect. It’s a known fact that first round prospects don’t always turn out, as well as the fact that players in the second round and beyond step up and prove they belong in the NHL. However, the best chance for success is to just stockpile as many draft picks as possible.
Look for Chicago to keep both picks, and add two names that will benefit the team in the next couple of years.