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CHN Weigh-In: How Should the Blackhawks Build if They Win the Lottery Again?

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The Chicago Blackhawks have been rebuilding the right way ever since Kyle Davidson took over the franchise as the general manager. He has overhauled everything from top to bottom. It hasn’t been easy but a lot of the hockey heartache was rewarded with the first overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. That certainly accelerated the rebuild but it was clear that there was a lot more work to do.

However, if they somehow win the lottery again, should they keep on the path of the slow rebuild, or should they make some moves to start trying to win? That is something that Davidson and the Blackhawks are going to have to decide between then and the lottery.

Winning the lottery will mean the right to draft Boston University forward Macklin Celebrini. He came into the year as the favorite to be the number one pick and he played up to expectations as a freshman in college. He is about to complete one of the greatest freshman seasons ever next week in the Frozen Four.

If the Blackhawks were able to bring in Celebrini and make it a two-headed monster with him and Bedard, they should speed up the rebuild. But what’s the best way to do this?

Both Nate and I look at this one before the lottery in a month.

#1: If they Win the Lottery, How Should They Rebuild Faster?

Vinnie: You can’t keep developing all of these young players and surround them with tons of losing. It won’t be good for them. With a guy like Celebrini coming in, you’d have to trade both draft capital and prospects for players who can help them win now. It is only a matter of time before Bedard and his cast of great young players (Kevin Korchinski, Alex Vlasic, etc) take that next step into stardom.

With guys like Frank Nazar, Oliver Moore, and Ethan Del Mastro getting ready to come up soon, this could be a very good lineup in no time if they made some big moves. If star wingers or defensemen become available on the trade block over the summer, maybe the Hawks make a couple of phone calls.

Nate:  I’m listening in on the first-round pick from Tampa Bay. As the Lightning continue to rise up the ranks and presumably do some damage in the in the playoffs, that pick sinks. I understand that Moore was taken with that pick last season, but that’s not always going to happen. Beyond that, if the Blackhawks have Bedard and Celebrini in the fold, it’s time to start looking at cracking that contention window open to let that rebuild stink out.

#2: If You Were Kyle Davidson, You Would…..

Nate:  Make a trade that nets that big time goal scorer to flank Bedard. But that name has to be in the wheelhouse of the new contention block. In other words, I’m looking for a guy on a cap strapped team who is between 24 and 26. Don’t scoff, the Red Wings plied Alex DeBrincat away and Tage Thompson was plucked away from St. Louis. Now, the latter wasn’t as proven but he was able get real ice time. The former was a known quantity. Mitch Marner is one name that comes to mind, and he’ll be on the young side of 27. But that’s another article for another time.

One other thing to consider: should the Hawks build the blue line into an absolute fortress? Vlasic, Korchinski, and likely Del Mastro are up. Jones will be there. Connor Murphy is likely around a couple more seasons, too. Do you go and get another very talented defenseman to round it out to ease in some of the younger guys? Again, another article but an idea to consider.

Vinnie: I’d have to think about how I can get this team into contention if I’m bringing in Celebrini via the draft. Bedard has already been incredible and he has generational potential. You have to take advantage of that being on your roster while you can.

If you put together two dynamic centers with different skill sets, you can build a top six good enough to win the Stanley Cup. From there, it would be about putting good wingers around them that can take advantage of the things they bring to the table. We’ve seen that Davidson has the authority to make big moves in order to better the team. So if he operated with this mindset, they’d have a chance to win with regularity.

#3: Should the Blackhawks Prospects Be in Play, Too?

Vinnie: The top prospects in the Chicago Blackhawks organization should be in play if it is for the right people. You aren’t going to get good talent if you don’t trade away a few good pieces with value. Prospects, unless they are players like Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, or Bedard, remain prospects until they prove themselves in the NHL. If there are good players that become available that can help the team take the next step, it might be time to make that move.

Nate: This is the tough one. Nobody wants to get the “how could you trade him away!” reaction if it doesn’t work out, but I also think this is where Davidson has been very good. His deals to get undervalued players has worked well. Nick Foligno, Jason Dickinson, and Petr Mrazek all immediately come to mind. The latter two also came with sweeteners, too.

So if Davidson decides to send a prospect or two to another team, why not? They’re not all going to hit, and he’s been judicious enough–and on the right side of the wins/losses trade ledger to earn the benefit of the doubt.

I pause, however, if Frank Nazar, Del Mastro, Moore or Gavin Hayes are mentioned. Like Vinnie said, unless it’s a no doubt goal scorer, there are still a few to say no to.

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