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Should the Blackhawks Make A Call on Trevor Zegras This Offseason?

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Trevor Zegras has been the subject of much discussion lately. First, there’s the TNT crew debating on whether he’s going to remain with the Anaheim Ducks long term.

But then there was another argument made on Zegras’ ceiling–comparing him to Pavel Datsyuk:

April Fool’s? Nah, but after what TNT’s Anson Carter said, should Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson shoot Anaheim’s Pat Verbeek a quick text this offseason about taking the offensive talent off Anaheim’s hands?

Breaking Down the Trevor Zegras Dialogue

Here’s where it’s interesting. Zegras was all the rage just two seasons ago–dazzling with the Michigan, being front and center with Sarah Nurse on the cover of NHL 23.

So when John Buccigross gives him a ceiling that is with one of the best two-way forwards of all time, it’s worth the context to determine precisely what he means. From the clip:

“I continue to be very bullish on Trevor Zegras,” Buccigross told ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski. “I think he has a Pavel Datsyuk ceiling–once he slowly matures–in terms of hands. When your hands are so good offensively, they should be good defensively, right? That’s what Datsyuk was. That’s what Evgeni Malkin was on the wall–he could strip guys with the puck–turnover, pass, score–goal; that’s what he did as a young man. He still does it now. I think once Zegras learns that, he can have that kind of game.”

With that in mind–what did Carter say? When asked by host Liam McHugh about whether Zegras was still a part of Anaheim’s future, Carter’s answer wasn’t exactly definitive.

“I think he should be [part of Anaheim’s future] but there’s a lot of question marks on what they have now and what they have coming.”

Pointing out a system and roster that has Cutter Gauthier, Leo Carlsson, and Mason McTavish in it, Carter called it an “embarrassment of riches down the middle” and wondered if there was even the room for him as the Ducks look to “bolster the defensive corps.”

Fellow panelist Paul Bissonnette chimed in with this: “For me if he wants to be an Anaheim Duck, the way they seem to be building that roster up, he has to develop more assets than just that high end skill.”

Bissonnette prefaced his comment by saying that teams don’t like to give up on young talent so early. But both panelists certainly seemed to agree that the Ducks’ future may not completely include Zegras in it.

Should the Blackhawks Make a Call on Zegras in the Offseason?

There’s a few schools of thought here and the first one that comes to mind is that he’s nowhere near the player Datstyuk was. His ceiling can be debated, but he’s just a different type of player than Datsyuk. The “Magic Man” was a 200-foot forward from the start of his career, and the offensive magic that showed came a bit later as he and Henrik Zetterberg led the team.

Datsyuk’s wizardy came not only with the puck, but what he could do without it. To Bissonnette’s point, there’s some development that still needs to happen for him to justify his spot on the team. Buccigross is also correct in saying that there’s time to develop that talent.

But Zegras doesn’t strike me as that kind of player. He’s a flashy forward–an attribute that landed him on the cover of NHL 23 while his highlights drove content for the Ducks and the league. But his contract was a bridge deal–and the Ducks, while acknowledging he was a “critical and valuable player” when they signed him to a three-year, $17.25M deal. Could he be the franchise player he seemed to be trending toward?

Injuries have limited Zegras this season to just 24 games and his production isn’t on pace with what Anaheim or Zegras were expecting. But seasons disrupted by injuries have that effect so this season is a wash.

So would Anaheim be willing to part with him? It’s the million dollar question. Zegras could play wing and after seeing what Frank Nazar is capable of, could create quite the top six for Chicago. He could also create a dynamic line with Connor Bedard and Philipp Kurashev. But that would be concentrating a lot of talent on one line where the Blackhawks could benefit from spreading out the talent.

Acquiring him, however, would cost a pretty penny simply on the potential that could still be there–and what Anaheim could subsequently be giving up on. Going off of Carter’s comments, would the Blackhawks be willing to give up on a young and growing talent on the blue line? Think Ethan Del Mastro, Nolan Allan, or Wyatt Kaiser. Anaheim might even ask for Alex Vlasic–though that seems like a silly conversation given how good he’s been for the Blackhawks.  It would also likely include potential draft picks or even some other prospects in a talent rich pool.

The timing might not be there yet as the Blackhawks figure out where their next move in the rebuild and the Ducks likely hold onto Zegras to let a full season provide a clearer picture of where he fits in with the other young talent in tow.

Perhaps a year from now if analysts and pundits have more questions than answers, maybe then Davidson should pick up the phone and find out what a deal could take.

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