The first major play of the NHL offseason belongs to the Ottawa Senators.
In a trade with the rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks, the Senators have acquired perennial 40-goal scorer Alex DeBrincat in exchange for three draft picks, including the seventh overall selection in this weekend's NHL Draft.
Chicago, which was previously without a first-round selection after parting with its top pick in last summer's trade for Seth Jones, will also secure the 39th overall selection in 2022, as well as a third-round pick in 2024.
As one of the league's most reliable scorers, DeBrincat is a tremendous acquisition for the Senators. He is one of nine skaters with 160 goals since breaking into the league five seasons ago, and his 73 tallies in the last two seasons was just one fewer than Alexander Ovechkin. He's surpassed the 40-goal mark twice to this point, and would have three 40-goal seasons if it weren't for the NHL's shortened campaign in 2020-21.
Sharing the ice with Patrick Kane has been a major part of his success, and it will be interesting to see how well he will perform outside of that partnership. But while the Senators don't have a comparable talent to Kane, they now have an impressive nucleus of top-six forwards with DeBrincat linking up with the likes of Brady Tkachuk, Drake Batherson, Josh Norris, and Tim Stutzle.
In a draft that isn't oozing obvious top-end talent, the Senators did quite well turning two lottery tickets into a surefire scorer at the NHL level to complete their top-six puzzle.
From the Blackhawks' standpoint, it's a bit of an underwhelming return, and a somewhat puzzling decision — even despite his long-reported availability on the market and the future financial implications. The Blackhawks are moving on from a piece they could conceivably rebuild around with no certainty that the value coming back in return will come close to matching what the diminutive DeBrincat can offer.
The decision might even be considered self-serving on the part of new general manager Kyle Davidson, who seems to be in the process of extending his own professional leash by scorching the valuable remnants left behind by his predecessor, Stan Bowman.
Also head-scratching: it's been reported that Chicago's third-round selection three summers ago, Kirby Dach, could also be available in a trade.
Spinning it forward, it's worth wondering how Kane and Chicago captain Jonathan Toews will react to Davidson's roster liquidation. While finding a trade partner for Toews seems far-fetched, Kane could drum up an impressive market if he decides that being part of a slow build isn't for him.
DeBrincat is entering the final season of a contract that pays him $6.4 million annually. He will be owed a qualifying offer of at least $9 million if the Senators aren't able to extend him prior to negotiations in restricted free agency.
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