In Elliotte Friedman’s recent 31 Thoughts column he mentioned that the Calgary Flames are looking to jump back into the first round. The Flames dealt their first round pick in 2018 to the New York Islanders for defenseman Travis Hamonic, and although the trade looked like one that would propel the Flames back into the playoffs, Calgary is still fighting for the second wild card spot with 7 games remaining in the season. The Flames also do not have a pick until the 4th round in the 2018 NHL entry draft, so it seems like if they miss the playoffs they might be willing to move some pieces in order to get into the first couple rounds.
Enter the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that has had a drastic fall from grace this season and were sellers at the trade deadline for the first time since the 2009/2010 season. The ‘Hawks sold off several pieces, including Ryan Hartman and Michal Kempny, and collected a first round pick from the Predators and a third round pick from the Capitals; both of which are in the 2018 draft. The ‘Hawks are in an odd situation this off-season, they don’t seem to be a team that is going to go complete tear down, but seem to be a team that needs a serious retooling and an injection of more youth into their lineup.
The ‘Hawks’ biggest issue has been on the back end this season with an aging top pairing and inconsistent play. The ‘Hawks would love to get their hands on one of the Flames D-men, but that would seem to be a non-starter unless if it was for a top 5 pick for the ‘Hawks to have any chance at. The more likely scenario I could see working for both teams would be the ‘Hawks using the Predators pick to give center Sam Bennett a shot to prove his 4th overall pick status. Bennett has been a bit of a disappointment for the Flames, the 21 year old has played 3 full seasons at the NHL level and has only crack 30 points once, which was his rookie season where he netted 18 goals and 18 assists.
You would wonder why would the ‘Hawks want to take on a player that has just not lived up to his draft stock? Well it could be the cliché that Bennett is in need of a change of scenery, or what I think is that maybe he just isn’t that type of player. Maybe his actual potential is that of a solid two way 3rd line center that gets you 30 points offensively and plays a solid enough two way game.
Looking at Bennett’s Hero Charts it would appear that the role of a 3rd line center seems to fit the trend of his play over the last several seasons.
The question then becomes is Bennett worth a 1st round pick? Albeit a late first round pick to the Blackhawks, who have some more drastic needs such as defense as well as making sure that their prospect pipeline is being refueled with talent. Another question would be, is Bennett is a true center? Calgary has bumped him from wing to center all season and it begs the question if Bennett can handle the load as a center at the dot and defensively.
Finally, do the Flames think they could get something better for Bennett? Yes, Bennett has struggled to live up to his billing but he is still a 21-year-old who has three years of NHL experience, not something that is exactly easy to come across in the league. Multiple teams in the NHL have multiple picks in the first round this season, just look at a team like the New York Rangers who have 3 first round picks and are looking to rebuild their team with young talent. Bennett would seem to be a good fit there, as he comes at a reasonable cap hit; young and has all that NHL experience already.
The ‘Hawks and Flames both appear to have interesting off-seasons ahead of them if the season shakes out the way it is currently headed. Will the ‘Hawks move one of their 1st rounders to assist in the retooling? Will the Flames look to use Sam Bennett as a bargaining chip to restock their system? What I will say is that this might be one of the most active NHL off-seasons in quite some time, especially for the spiraling ‘Hawks.