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The Blackhawks begin to dismantle, swapping DeBrincat and Dach

The long-awaited dismantling of the Chicago Blackhawks ’roster began Thursday with the team switching Alex DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators and Kirby Dach to the Montreal Canadiens.

By completing a third exchange to acquire Toronto Maple Leafs goalkeeper Petr Mrazek, the Blackhawks went from not having first-round picks in the NHL draft in Montreal to making three selections overnight.

Chicago acquired the seventh and 39th pick in this year’s draft and a third round in 2024 for DeBrincat, who is likely a year away from a big payday. The Blackhawks acquired the No. 13 pick after moving Dach to Montreal.

By adding Mrazek, the Blackhawks acquired the No. 25 pick for helping the Maple Leafs free up much-needed wage space. Mrazek has two years left with a $ 11.4 million three-year contract he signed with Toronto.

Treating DeBrincat signals a change in the way they win soon for the Senators, while the Blackhawks moved even further away from competing again a year after making moves like acquiring defender Seth Jones and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Announcement

“I think they’re trying to do something that maybe we were trying to do a few years ago,” Senator General Manager Pierre Dorion said at the project in Montreal. “Now we’re trying to do something that a lot of teams were trying to do, and that’s win a lot of hockey games.”

With many defeats next season and beyond, attention is now focused on the future of Blackhawks stars and three-time Stanley Cup winners Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, whose matching contracts expire after next season.

They have already gained some financial flexibility when trading with DeBrincat, which is expected to attract a big increase once their current contract expires after the 2022-23 season.

DeBrincat, 24, has one year left on a three-year, $ 19.2 million contract, after which he can become a restricted free agent. Dorion said Senators hope to begin extension talks with DeBrincat’s agent next week when league rules allow, but added that the team wants to make sure it fits well into coach DJ Smith’s system.

Announcement

“Obviously, we’d like to extend it to you at some point,” Dorion said. “He was very excited. He talked to me and DJ before, and he was very excited. He knows we have a very good, young group of players.”

Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson said adding high draft picks was a priority after the DeBrincat exchange.

“It was an incredibly difficult decision to change a player of Alex’s caliber. We felt like this move would prepare the Blackhawks for future success by giving us additional flexibility and future talent,” Davidson said in a statement.

“Ensuring this start of a first-round selection for tonight and an additional second-round selection tomorrow allows us to strengthen our outlook base with high-end players that we hope will be a marker of differences in the coming years.”

Chicago selected Canadian junior defender Kevin Korchinski with the No. 13 pick, U.S. development center Frank Nazar at No. 13 and Minnesota Institute defender Sam Rinzel at No. 25.

Announcement

The exchanges come when the Blackhawks came to a crossroads in the direction of their franchise. Chicago has lost the playoffs in four of the last five seasons and hasn’t won a postseason round since 2015, when the Blackhawks won their third Stanley Cup in six years.

The DeBrincat deal will create more questions for Blackhawks stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

Toews and Kane, still one of the most dynamic players in the league at 33, have no-move clauses, making an exchange unlikely unless they ask for a change of scenery. But DeBrincat’s departure could lead Kane or Toews to look for a new home.

DeBrincat was selected by Chicago in the second round of the 2016 draft. He made big numbers with the OHL Erie Otters in youth, but dropped by a few draft tables due to his 5-foot-7 height.

Those concerns proved unfounded.

DeBrincat has been one of the NHL’s most prolific scorers since his debut with the Blackhawks in 2017. The winger equaled his career high with 41 goals last season and scored the best of his career with 37 assists in 82 games.

Announcement

In total, he has 160 goals and 147 assists in 368 games.

But the Michigan native has also improved on the defensive side, becoming a more complete player since entering the league.

He joins a growing list of Senators who already have a collection of promising youngsters, such as Brady Tkachuk and Tim Stutzle.

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AP sports writer Jay Cohen contributed to this report.

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The Blackhawks begin to dismantle, swapping DeBrincat and Dach

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