Rebuilding is common in virtually every professional sports league especially one like the NHL that has a hard salary cap. Ask any number of people what they think a rebuild entails and there are likely going to be that many iterations of a response.
Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson has explicitly stated in press conferences and interviews that the franchise is rebuilding not just the player personnel but also the personnel in all other facets of hockey operations like data, scouting, and development.
Davidson isn't shy to say that "slow and steady" is the way the Hawks will go to rebuild. While he didn't put a firm timeline on when the rebuild will be complete, he has alluded to it essentially "taking as long as it takes" to get there which could be at least five years.
Then on the other end of the spectrum is what star player Patrick Kane believes which is that a rebuild doesn't need to take that long and could take as little as a year or two if the right moves are made, prospects hit potential, and players play to their ability.
The other half of the Wonder Twins -- Jonathan Toews -- may hold similar beliefs as Kane. There is wonderment on whether Toews even knows what a rebuild is as he sometimes seems confused with the concept, debates its merit, and questions his place in the process.
Teammates like Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strone, Kirby Dach, and Seth Jones have said in one way or another that they would like to be a part of the rebuild. Yet, are they on the same page with everyone? Even more, are they okay if it takes as long as Davidson is expecting it to be?
There is also the notion that if any of the above players are traded, then high-end futures could return to the Hawks such as 1st round picks, blue chip prospects, and NHL-ready youngsters who are primed for top 6 forward roles or top 4 blueline roles.
For instance, if the rumor that it's a matter of "when and not if" DeBrincat gets traded, then he would gain back a combination of the aforementioned assets. Same with Kane especially when considering that seeing DeBrincat let go could lead him to ask out.
Would the departure of DeBrincat and Kane -- not to mention any of Toews, Strome, Dach, and/or Jones -- gain back new blood to not only inject into the system but also hasten the rebuild timeline? Ironically, the ones who say rebuilds don't have to take long wouldn't be there anymore.
A thought is that's not anything Davidson cares about. He seems to care more about getting the right players, the right coaches, and the right hockey operations staff to create a sustainably perennial Cup contender. The timeline will organically work itself out.
Another way to look at it is that there may be a greater probability of a key element needed to rebuild on a more poignant timeline -- namely a more robust prospect pipeline -- if the likes of DeBrincat and Kane are shipped out for favorable futures to reload with.
Is there a way to have both, though? As Kane claimed, "You can win and still be in a rebuild." Sure, anything can happen. However, a lot of stars need to align and not just for one Cinderella season but in a perpetual fashion to be closer to a dynasty than a flash in the pan.
With that in mind, wouldn't the stars align more with a proverbially endless supply of top flight prospects in the system? And wouldn't dealing DeBrincat and Kane in particular bring back such assets? Or is there another way to obtain them by keeping the band together?
The Blackhawks have a few prospects who are invited to the 2022 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp including forward Landon Slaggert and defensemen Wyatt Kaiser and Connor Kelley. A notable absence is goalie Drew Commesso.
Slaggert and Kaiser should be favorites again. Along with Commesso, this trio represented Team USA at the abruptly canceled World Junior Championships in December. Commesso then went on to the Olympics as part of the U.S. delegation.
See you on the boards!
Sources: Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald, NBC Sports Chicago, The Athletic Chicago