Brandon Hagel, Chicago Blackhawks, Jason Dickinson, Nick Foligno, Taylor Hall

Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson’s 3 Best Trades So Far

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Chicago Blackhawks general manager (GM) Kyle Davidson, it’s that he isn’t afraid to be bold. Davidson spent four months as interim GM before taking over full-time in March 2022 and has made a full 180 from the previous regime. He dealt fan favorites and overhauled the scouting department, something the Blackhawks needed, having been stuck in mediocrity since their last normal playoff appearance in 2017.

After a scorched-earth rebuild last offseason, the future look promising for the Blackhawks compared to this time last year. They’ve landed a generational talent in Connor Bedard, among other promising prospects like Kevin Korchinski, Oliver Moore, and Frank Nazar. Plus, there’s no reason not to think head coach Luke Richardson won’t be around for the long run, a hire for which Davidson deserves a ton of credit.

Davidson’s entering just his second full season as GM, but he’s made enough moves at this point to assess his performance. Here’s a look at his three best trades.

Trading Brandon Hagel (March 18, 2022)

Davidson started the Blackhawks’ rebuild with a bang. Seventeen days after being named permanent GM, he traded forward Brandon Hagel and two fourth-rounders (2022 and 2024) to the Tampa Bay Lightning. In exchange, Chicago received Tampa Bay’s 2023 and 2024 first-round picks and forwards Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk. Just last month, Davidson used this year’s pick (No. 19 overall) to draft Moore, arguably one of the fastest players in this year’s class.

There’s no doubt Hagel was (and still is) the most well-rounded player involved in this deal. He’s an energetic young power forward and showed that he’s more than capable of a top-six role on the Lightning. However, this was a deal too good for Davidson to pass up. At the time, Hagel had played 108 NHL games with 61 points. Two first-rounders alone could’ve been a decent enough return for a player of his caliber.

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Raddysh and Katchouk were two young forwards being buried in Tampa Bay but have earned regular roles with the Blackhawks. Raddysh, in particular, is coming off a breakout campaign with 37 points in 78 games. The 25-year-old was mainly a positive last season despite his hot-and-cold streaks.

While the Lightning have benefited from Hagel, this deal looks even better for the Blackhawks after they drafted Moore, who some projected to be a top-10-to-12 pick. Davidson didn’t have to make this move; at the time, Hagel was just 23 and could’ve been a long-term piece. But again, he received an outstanding return. It also likely would’ve been harder for Chicago to land a top-three pick while still building around a forward core of Hagel, Alex DeBrincat, and Kirby Dach. The Blackhawks had to bottom out, and this move signaled that direction.

Acquiring Jason Dickinson (Oct. 7, 2022)

Much like this offseason, the Blackhawks entered the 2022-23 regular season positioned to take on bad contracts to help other teams. Less than a week before Chicago’s season opener, they acquired forward Jason Dickinson and his $2.65 million cap hit from the Vancouver Canucks, along with a 2024 second-round pick, for defenseman Riley Stillman.

Jason Dickinson Chicago Blackhawks
Jason Dickinson, Chicago Blackhawks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Davidson didn’t ace this trade by getting Dickinson, though. It was the fact he got a second-rounder with him. While Stillman was just 24, he didn’t have much of a future with the organization. He was mainly a reclamation project and represented the last regime’s effort to retool on the fly, along with Alex Nylander and Henrik Borgström. This past season, Stillman skated in just 50 combined games with the Canucks and Buffalo Sabres. At this point in his career, he’s probably a third-pairing defenseman at best.

After recording 11 points in 62 games for Vancouver in 2021-22, Dickinson had a bounce-back campaign with the Blackhawks in 2022-23, with a career-high 30 points in 78 games. He may not be more than a placeholder for Chicago, but he’s still a productive player and brings leadership.

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With Vancouver’s second-rounder, the Blackhawks have seven picks in the first three rounds of the 2024 Draft. Davidson was wise to make this move, as it helps the Blackhawks now (adding Dickinson) and later (bolstering their draft capital). They obviously won’t need to worry about Dickinson’s cap hit long-term either, given he’s set to hit free agency next year.

Acquiring Taylor Hall & Nick Foligno (June 26, 2023)

Though Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno are still weeks away from making their Blackhawks debut, acquiring the two veterans from the Boston Bruins was one of Davidson’s savviest moves yet. The two are owed a combined $10 million this season, but the Blackhawks can certainly afford that in the short term. All it took was parting with Alec Regula and Ian Mitchell, two young defensemen who were unlikely to stay with the club long-term anyway.

In Hall, Davidson landed the perfect veteran to play with Bedard. As a former first-overall pick, he can to Bedard’s experience as he adapts to the NHL. Foligno should fit nicely into the Blackhawks’ middle-to-bottom six and is one of the league’s most under-the-radar leaders. Both players bring instant name value and credibility.

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Even if Regula and Mitchell flourish in Boston, the Blackhawks have many promising defensive prospects in Korchinski, Alex Vlasic, Wyatt Kaiser, Ethan Del Mastro, and Nolan Allan, among others. The 24-year-old Mitchell has yet to show he’s more than a depth piece, and a change of scenery was overdue. Regula, on the other hand, is younger and has a bit of a higher ceiling. He still has much to prove at the NHL level, however, with just 22 career games under his belt.

Davidson did great work here. It remains to be seen how Hall and Foligno perform in Chicago, but they’re both well-liked and respected league-wide. Regula and Mitchell were products of the last regime, and it was tough to see either of them becoming meaningful contributors when the Blackhawks contend.

Honorable Mention: Trading Kirby Dach (July 7, 2022)

Trading Dach may have been a little unpopular a year ago, but in hindsight, this deal looks better for Davidson now. In return, the Blackhawks received the 13th and 66th overall picks in last year’s draft, which they used to select forwards Frank Nazar and Gavin Hayes, respectively. Nazar missed much of last season due to injury but should continue growing as he enters his second season with the University of Michigan. He brings speed, and athleticism, and has the makings of a future top-six forward.

Frank Nazar Chicago Blackhawks
Frank Nazar, Chicago Blackhawks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Davidson was wise to let Dach start fresh. The Blackhawks rushed the 2019 third-overall pick to the NHL, making his debut just months after he was drafted. During his third and final season in Chicago (2021-22), there were times when he seemed to lack confidence, something you never want to see from a young player. It’s hard to declare a clear winner of this trade yet, but fans have every reason to get excited about Nazar.

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It was easy to be skeptical when the Blackhawks hired Davidson. Given the organization’s issues at the time, an outside voice would’ve been intriguing, rather than staying in-house. With that said, he’s done pretty well so far and cleaned up his predecessor’s mess relatively well. The Blackhawks are likely still a few seasons away from contention, but Davidson deserves credit for his handling of the rebuild. These three trades are just some of his best.

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