ANALYSIS: How could the Chicago Blackhawks approach the trade deadline?


With Friday’s NHL trade deadline quickly approaching, the hot stoves are beginning to heat up. Teams attempting to make a deep playoff push will be looking to improve their rosters with short-term rentals on the market. Other teams will be trying to get the most out of players they have no intention of re-signing beyond this season. It will be a constant chess match between buyers and sellers trying to “win” the deadline. 

Some buyers are easy to identify. Teams like the Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers and New York Rangers will be looking to strengthen their playoff rosters through the deadline, while also managing the salary cap. 

A few teams could be somewhere in the middle. Teams like the Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals could flip players of value at the deadline, or they could take a risk at the deadline and buy. 

Other teams, like the Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues, find themselves outside of a playoff spot with intriguing players who playoff contenders would be interested in acquiring. Players like Jake Guentzel of the Penguins, Adam Henrique of the Ducks, Jacob Markstrom and Noah Hanifin of the Flames, Sean Walker of the Flyers and Jakob Chychrun of the Senators headline the rumor mill this year. Sellers will try to get the most out of other teams for these players, while buyers will try to out-bid other buyers for the players mentioned. Already, the NHL has seen some dealing take place, with defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin being moved by the Ducks to the Toronto Maple Leafs, defenseman Christopher Tanev being sent to Dallas from the Flames and winger Anthony Mantha going from the Capitals to the Vegas Golden Knights. 

Which leaves a question up in the air. What do the Chicago Blackhawks do this deadline? After 62 games, the Hawks find themselves with the lowest point total in the entire NHL at 35, with a record of 15–42–5. It is no secret that the Hawks are far from competitive, and with how the roster is currently constructed and where prospects currently are in development, Chicago is not expecting to compete soon. With this in mind, there are three approaches that the Hawks can take this deadline. Each approach presents its own intrigue, and its own risks. 


The Blackhawks have been sellers at the deadline for years now, and this season could be more of the same for Chicago. Blackhawks General Manager Kyle Davidson has previously guided the Hawks through a deadline where they sold off key players like Patrick Kane, Sam Lafferty, Jake McCabe and Max Domi. These trades gave the Blackhawks a few depth pieces, like forward Joey Anderson and defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, along with netting the Blackhawks more draft capital, something that the Hawks have coveted during their current rebuild.

During the season, the Blackhawks re-signed multiple players who fans had once considered to be deadline bait for this season. In January, the Blackhawks re-signed forwards Jason Dickinson and Nick Foligno to two-year contract extensions while also re-signing goaltender Petr Mrazek to a two-year extension. With these players on the books through the 2025–26 season, the players who the Blackhawks could ship out at the deadline slimmed. With these moves, it also seemed to indicate that Davidson did not want to shake up the roster during Connor Bedard’s rookie campaign. 

With all of that being said, there are still a few players who could be moved at the deadline. I have identified three players who make the most sense for the Blackhawks to move by Friday.

Tyler Johnson

ANALYSIS: How could the Chicago Blackhawks approach the trade deadline?

(Photo courtesy of Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Tyler Johnson has been on the Hawks since the 2021–22 season. This season, he has recorded a statline of 12–6—18 in 47 games. As a center, he has shown value with the Blackhawks with his two-way play and face-off ability, and teams looking to add center depth to their bottom six could find some interest in adding Johnson to their roster. Johnson will become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason and has a current cap hit of $5 million.

There are a few issues with attempting to trade Johnson. The first is his cap hit. $5 million is no pocket change, and his cap hit sits only $1 million less than Guentzel, and only $825,000 less than Henrique. If a team is willing to trade for Johnson, salary retention will be necessary for the Hawks, and if retention by only the Hawks is not enough, it may mean including a third team to retain another part of Johnson’s salary as well. This could make a few teams less interested in trying to acquire Johnson.

Another issue with this trade is whether Johnson would even want to be traded at all. Johnson has fit in well with this organization, and at 33, moving may not be in the cards for Johnson. He may want to play out the rest of the season with Chicago, and perhaps negotiate with Chicago in the offseason to remain with the team.

The final issue with trading Johnson is the massive hole in center depth he would leave behind. The Blackhawks, with a combination of injuries and prospects not ready for the NHL, are desperate for anyone who can play out the rest of this season at the NHL level. To take out a player who has played 47 out of 62 possible games this season at a key position could make things worse than they already are.

In terms of return, the Hawks would be lucky to get a fourth-round pick out of Johnson. With how deep the center market is in this deadline, with centers like Henrique, Alexander Wennberg, Scott Laughton, Nic Dowd and Nick Bjugstad available, the best way to sell Johnson would be to advertise him as a cheaper option at the center position for contending teams. 

Colin Blackwell

ANALYSIS: How could the Chicago Blackhawks approach the trade deadline?

(Photo courtesy of Jamie Sabau / USA TODAY Sports)

Another forward for the Blackhawks, Colin Blackwell was signed by the Blackhawks to a two-year deal in the 2022 offseason. In 32 games this season, Blackwell has recorded a statline of 5–3—8. Blackwell currently has a cap hit of $1.2 million and will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Blackwell could offer buyers a physical depth forward who could step in and play when teammates hit the injured reserve. 

There are not as many issues with trading Blackwell as trading Johnson would create. Blackwell has been a depth forward since joining the Hawks, so moving on from him would not take away much from the Hawks’ forward depth. 

The return for trading Blackwell might not be as impressive as the return Johnson would get Chicago. For a player like Blackwell, Chicago would probably be happy to get a fifth- or sixth-round pick in return. Like with Johnson, Chicago could market Blackwell as a cheaper option compared to the other forwards currently on the market. Teams unwilling to trade highly valuable draft picks for forward depth could turn to Blackwell as a safer and cheaper option.

Connor Murphy

ANALYSIS: How could the Chicago Blackhawks approach the trade deadline?

(Photo courtesy of Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Easily the most surprising name on the list, Connor Murphy has been on the Blackhawks since the 2017–18 season. As the longest-tenured Hawk, Murphy has accumulated 92 points in 416 games with Chicago. This season, Murphy has put up a statline of 2–6—8 in 43 games. As of now, Murphy is on the injured reserve list, and has not played since Jan. 16. Murphy is signed through the 2025–26 season with a yearly cap hit of $4.4 million. Murphy will turn 31 on March 26.

Murphy has been an integral part of the Blackhawks’ post-dynasty era. Initially lambasted for being the player traded for Blackhawks staple Niklas Hjalmarsson, Murphy has proven his worth to the organization in both zones. 

With the Blackhawks’ contending window still years down the road, the return for a player like Murphy could be of great benefit to the Blackhawks. With two years on his contract beyond this season, his value exceeds that of a post-deadline rental. Teams looking to add to their playoff chances both this year and in the near future could see Murphy as a second-pairing defenseman with contractual security.

Of the three players who could be sold at the deadline, Murphy would likely demand the highest return. The Hawks could ask for multiple pieces, with the possibility of a higher pick or more notable prospect being involved. Trading Murphy at this deadline could be a move of high risk, and if the Hawks play their cards correctly, high reward.


The idea of buying at the deadline probably seems foreign to Blackhawks fans. The last time the Blackhawks legitimately bought at a trade deadline was in 2017, when the Blackhawks re-acquired defenseman Johnny Oduya from the Stars. 

Although buying seems the most unlikely of approaches, there are ways for the Hawks to buy while still remaining in the rebuild. In the next three seasons, Chicago possess five first-round picks, eight second-round picks and four third-round picks. With this draft capital, Chicago could look to add at this deadline if they so choose. Using this draft capital, they could look to add long-term depth and skill to a team in desperate need of both. There are two names on the market that might make sense for the Blackhawks to pursue.

Casey Mittelstadt

ANALYSIS: How could the Chicago Blackhawks approach the trade deadline?

(Photo courtesy of Minas Panagiotakis / Getty Images)

A former eighth-overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Casey Mittelstadt has been in career limbo for most of his Buffalo Sabres career. At only 25, Mittelstadt has recorded 62 goals and 124 assists in 339 career games, all of them with Buffalo. This season, Mittelstadt has recorded a statline of 14–33—47 in 62 games. Mittelstadt is in the last year of his contract and will become a restricted free agent this offseason.

The Sabres are currently in 13th place in the Eastern Conference. With no ability to compete in a playoff spot for this season, it could be in their best interest to get the most out of their players with expiring contracts. Along with this, top forward prospects like Zach Benson, Jiri Kulich, Matthew Savoie and Isak Rosen will be looking to make the jump to the NHL; Mittelstadt is starting to look like excess goods for the Sabres. 

Realistically, the Blackhawks would have to trade decent value for Mittelstadt. If the Blackhawks did not want to include a first-round pick for Mittelstadt, then multiple draft picks plus a prospect would have to be on the table for Mittelstadt if the Hawks wanted the Sabres to take their offer seriously. With the Sabres’ prospect pool lacking defensemen, the logical asking price might look like the Los Angeles Kings’ 2024 second-round pick, the Blackhawks’ 2025 third-round pick and defenseman Wyatt Kaiser.

With this trade, the Blackhawks could give Bedard another young linemate. A line of Mittelstadt–Bedard–Kurashev could generate some offense that the Blackhawks have been lacking recently. With three second-round picks in the 2024 Entry Draft, Chicago can afford to deal one of them for a young player who can help Bedard now and in the future. With other defensive prospects like Nolan Allan, Ethan Del Mastro and Sam Rinzel, the Hawks could move on from Kaiser and still have defensive prospects coming up through the system.

Trevor Zegras

ANALYSIS: How could the Chicago Blackhawks approach the trade deadline?

(Photo courtesy of Stephen R. Sylvanie / USA TODAY Sports)

The idea of trading for Trevor Zegras seems like a long shot for many teams, including the Hawks, but it is not impossible. Recent rumors have indicated that the Ducks may be looking to move on from the flashy forward, and the Hawks could swoop in and gain a young player with a ton of offensive upside.

Zegras, the ninth-overall pick of the 2019 Entry Draft, has totaled 53 goals and 93 assists in only 200 career games. This season has been a difficult one for Zegras, having only totaled seven points in 20 games, and is currently sidelined with a broken ankle. At only 22 years old, Zegras has shown an incredible ability to score, but has struggled to extend his game to the defensive zone. Zegras is currently in the first year of a three-year, $17.25 million contract, paying him $5.75 million per season until 2026.

At only 22, and with multiple years left on his contract, Zegras will be a tough get for the Hawks. The hypothetical price would be far higher than the price for Mittelstadt. If the Blackhawks are not willing to part with a first-round pick for Zegras, then Chicago could probably forget about attempting to trade for the younger forward. It would be a steep bill, but the possible upside, if Zegras can develop in with the Blackhawks, might outweigh the risks.

Doing nothing

The third and final approach of the deadline is also the least exciting. While being unexciting, it is also the approach with the least risk. As mentioned earlier, the Blackhawks have fantastic draft capital and their prospect pool is considered one of the best in the league. Making moves for the sake of making moves could throw off the Blackhawks’ plans for building a contender down the road.

There is a German term called Zugzwang. It is a term used in turn-based games, such as chess, where the best move to make is to not make a move at all. In the case of this trade deadline, the best move for the Blackhawks could be to not make a move at all.

In this case, the Blackhawks could act as a salary retainer for teams needing a third trade partner to facilitate a deal for cap purposes. The Lyubushkin and Tanev trades both included third teams retaining salary while gaining draft capital. It would make sense for the Blackhawks to involve themselves in a trade like this. The Blackhawks have plenty of cap space, and only have one draft pick in the last four rounds in this year’s draft. Adding a fifth- or sixth-round pick in exchange for some additional cap is essentially a no-risk, low-reward scenario.


It may not be as exciting of a trade deadline as last season for the Blackhawks, but anything can happen at a trade deadline. With the Hawks overflowing in draft capital and lacking in trade bait, it could be an incredibly quiet deadline for this organization. 

If the Hawks choose to sell, it would be hard to expect anything more than a fourth-round pick for a player in the last year of their deal. If they choose to buy, it will be with the future in mind. If they choose to stand pat and avoid moving pieces, it shows that this organization believes they are in a good spot for the future and are just playing the waiting game on current and future prospects.


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