Blackhawks begin teardown, trade DeBrincat and Dach

Chicago Blackhawks left winger Alex DeBrincat against the San Jose Sharks in an NHL hockey game in San Jose, California on April 23, 2022. The Blackhawks made the biggest trade so far sending DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators for the seventh and 39th picks.  year and a third round in 2024. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, file)

Chicago Blackhawks left winger Alex DeBrincat against the San Jose Sharks in an NHL hockey game in San Jose, California on April 23, 2022. The Blackhawks made the biggest trade so far sending DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators for the seventh and 39th picks. year and a third round in 2024. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, file)

PA

The long-awaited dismantling of the Chicago Blackhawks roster began Thursday with the trade of Alex DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators and Kirby Dach to the Montreal Canadiens.

By completing a third trade to acquire goaltender Petr Mrazek from the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Blackhawks went from nothing in the first round at the NHL Draft in Montreal to making three picks on the night.

Chicago acquired the seventh and 39th picks in this year’s draft and a third round in 2024 for DeBrincat, who is likely a year away from a big payday. The Blackhawks acquired the No. 13 pick by trading Dach to Montreal.

“Going through a rebuild is not fun,” said general manager Kyle Davidson. faces that we, the executives and the fans, know and love, but it’s necessary and it’s necessary to get where we want to be.”

By adding Mrazek, the Blackhawks acquired the No. 25 pick for helping the Maple Leafs free up much-needed salary cap space. Mrazek has two years left on a three-year, $11.4 million contract he signed with Toronto.

Dealing with DeBrincat signals a shift into quick win mode for the Senators, while the Blackhawks have drifted further away from the fight a year after making moves like acquiring defensemen Seth Jones and Marc-Andre Fleury.

“I think they’re trying to do something that maybe we were trying to do a few years ago,” Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said at the draft in Montreal. “Now we’re trying to do something a lot of teams were trying to do, and that’s win a lot of hockey games.”

With plenty of losses to come next season and beyond, attention now turns to the future of longtime Blackhawks stars and three-time Stanley Cup winners Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, whose corresponding contracts expire after next season.

“It’s a discussion we’re going to have to have,” Davidson said. “We are honest and told them what could happen. And we will potentially have to make some changes, so there was no deception there. But it’s real now. There is a discussion that will have to take place. They know what we expect of them and why we want them there.”

They have already gained some financial flexibility by trading DeBrincat, who is expected to attract a big raise once his current contract expires after the 2022-23 season.

DeBrincat, 24, has one year left on a three-year, $19.2 million contract, after which he is eligible to become a restricted free agent. Dorion said the Senators expect to start extension talks with DeBrincat’s agent next week when league rules permit, but added the team wants to make sure he fits in well into coach DJ Smith’s system.

“Obviously we would like to extend it at some point,” Dorion said. “He was quite excited. He talked to myself and DJ earlier, and he was really excited. He knows we have a very good group of young players.

Davidson said adding high draft picks was a priority after the DeBrincat trade.

Chicago selected Canadian junior defenseman Kevin Korchinski with the 13th pick, USA development team center Frank Nazar with the 13th overall and Minnesota high school defenseman Sam Rinzel with the 25th overall.

“I think we have very, very high quality leads in our system,” Davidson said. And sitting where we are right now with the prospects we just picked up, I’m damn happy.

The trades come with the Blackhawks having reached a crossroads in the direction of their franchise. Chicago has missed the playoffs in four of the past five seasons and hasn’t won a playoff since 2015, when the Blackhawks won their third Stanley Cup in six years.

The DeBrincat deal will create more questions for longtime Blackhawks stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

Toews and Kane – still one of the league’s most dynamic players at 33 – have no-move clauses, making a trade unlikely unless they ask for a change of scenery. But DeBrincat’s departure could prompt Kane or Toews to seek a new home.

DeBrincat was selected by Chicago in the second round of the 2016 draft. He had big numbers with the OHL’s Erie Otters as a junior, but he slipped on some draft boards due to his height at 5 feet 7 inches.

These concerns turned out to be unfounded.

DeBrincat has been one of the most prolific scorers in the NHL since his debut with the Blackhawks in 2017. The winger tied his career high with 41 goals last season and set a career high with 37 assists in 82 matches.

In total, he has 160 goals and 147 assists in 368 games.

But the Michigan native has also improved defensively, becoming a more complete player since entering the league.

He joins a growing Senators roster that already includes a collection of promising youngsters, including Brady Tkachuk and Tim Stutzle.

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AP Sports Writer Jay Cohen contributed to this report.

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