'Happy to have the group we have': What Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson said as the NHL trade deadline passed

Right as the clock struck 2 p.m., the buzzer sounded. 

The NHL trade deadline had passed, and the Chicago Blackhawks got on the board with one trade that came well before the clock ran out.

The team announced Thursday it traded forward Anthony Beauvillier to the Nashville Predators for a fifth-round selection in the 2024 NHL Draft, just months after acquiring him for a fifth-round pick in December 2023.

That's quite a stark contrast to last season, when Chicago made the deadline decision to trade Patrick Kane to the New York Rangers in the midst of a flurry of other trades.

Even though the Blackhawks made a lone move, Davidson alluded to the future when more moves could be on the horizon.

That depends on a few things.

Here are some key points Davidson touched on during a post-deadline press conference Friday afternoon.

Were the Blackhawks actively shopping?

Last year, Chicago was a major seller. 

The Blackhawks made nine trades between February 22, 2023, and the end of the 2023 NHL trade deadline. Davidson didn't expect the same, but he might've expected a bit more.

"Heading into it, I thought maybe there would be a little more activity, whether we did something or not it was a different story," Davidson said. "I just thought there would be a little more action on our end."

In the end, quiet isn't all bad. 

Perhaps the biggest criticism is the last-place ‘Hawks didn’t do anything to improve a roster that desperately needs help. But, making a trade just to make one wasn't something on Davidson's radar.

"It was quieter, which is fine, and we're happy to have the group we have moving through the deadline," Davidson said. "I wasn't dead set on trying to make other moves."

Davidson's impression of the trade deadline this year

One of the most telling observations Davidson gave Friday was the trade deadline this season was hard to gauge.

"It felt more unpredictable this year," Davidson said. "Even just seeing what some of the different deals were around the league, obviously, some of the players that got first-round pick packages were very good players and that made sense, but it seemed like there were fewer in that mid-range, that two-, three-, four-round range just didn't seem as many of those picks moved this year."

Every year is different. However, Davidson navigated it with the idea he wouldn't make a trade that gave away key draft capital or compromised the team's rebuild moving forward.

"I don't know if that's supply or demand or what have you," Davidon said. "It did seem like there was a bigger spread of those later outfits that were moving as opposed to recent years."

Will the Blackhawks be players in 2024 free agency?

This depends on whether the Blackhawks are ready to look at the long term and take the next step in their rebuild. 

Davidson doesn't know if the ‘Hawks will be there by the time this summer rolls around. However, that’s one factor Davidson is watching.

The other reason for trepidation around adding a free agent is the list of free agents now could shrink come this summer.

"You have to get to that point to see who's available first of all," Davidson said. "Whether it's free agency, what have you, if you're looking long term, like some pretty good players, normally their teams do everything they can to lock them up and there's still considerable amount of time to do that."

Spending money on a free agent wouldn't be an awful idea. It would pair a highly paid player with Connor Bedard as Bedard continues to improve in his first years in the league. However, the realistic idea is Bedard and the rest of the Blackhawks prospects need time to come around before the team commits to trying to contend.

"We will kind of evaluate that when we get there and see where we're at in a couple months, but again, as we did last year and maybe more so this year, we'll look to probably explore free agency," Davidson said. "(It's) something we're willing to explore and dip into if it's advantageous to us. But, we also have to be mindful of where we are in this process as well and not do anything to harm the long term viability." 

What's next for the Blackhawks?

The Blackhawks would need a massive turnaround in a short amount of time to even think playoffs.

That's most likely out of the picture.

Instead, Davidson said the focus he's turning to is the 2024 NHL Draft, where Chicago has a staggering seven picks in the first three rounds, including two first-round picks and two second-round picks.

"That's definitely going to take up a lot of the focus now," Davidson said. "That along with tracking some of the prospects down the stretch and see how they’re doing, where we might want to have them play, whether it’s to end this year or to play next year." 

Those picks will add to a massive pipeline the Blackhawks are building. Some of those players won't be ready for a few seasons, but the idea continues to be once those players are NHL ready Bedard could be a superstar and other prospects around him are capable of playing high-caliber hockey at the NHL level. 

"Those kinds of conversations are going to really heat up and start to be had," Davidson said.


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