As an interim general manager, Kyle Davidson had full autonomy to make hockey decisions but it was difficult for him to put his blueprint on the Blackhawks' roster because the reality is, it needs fixing that will take years, not months.
That changed on March 1 when Davidson was named the permanent GM, which had allowed him to truly chart his own path as he looks to get the Blackhawks back into consistent contention. And he didn't dance around what the plan was going to be.
"We’re going to look at more of a rebuild here," Davidson said in his introductory press conference. "There are some things that we really need to fix that are going to take time. We're not going to put a timeline on it, whether it's three, five [years], I don’t have that answer right now. That will be determined as we proceed.
"But we really need to do this the right way and we're going to stick to the plan and take our time with it and make sure that when we get to where we want to go, then it was the result of a plan that was stuck to and not deviated from."
Well, the magnitude of Davidson's rebuild has begun to take shape after moving two big pieces ahead of Monday's trade deadline.
Here's a recap of what the Blackhawks ultimately got in return for Ryan Carpenter, Marc-Andre Fleury and Brandon Hagel:
- Conditional first-round pick in 2022 from Minnesota
- First-round pick in 2023 from Tampa Bay (Top 10 protected that could move to 2025)
- First-round pick in 2024 from Tampa Bay (Top 10 protected that could move to 2026)
- Fifth-round pick in 2024
- 23-year-old forward Boris Katchouk
- 24-year-old forward Taylor Raddysh
The biggest way to kickstart a rebuild is by accumulating future assets in the form of draft capital and/or prospects, and the Blackhawks clearly did that. From that standpoint, it was a productive first trade deadline for Davidson as GM.
"I'm really happy," Davidson said. "I'm really happy with how it went. You don't know how these things are going to play out. You have all these plans, but the fact is that you need other teams to kind of play along to some respect and to value your players at the same level that you do.
"To walk away here with, potentially, three first-round picks, a couple really good NHL players right now is something I'm really, really pleased with."
The Hagel trade fetched the largest return, and rightfully so. His age, production and contract value is what made him so attractive to other teams, and Davidson essentially received an offer he couldn't refuse.
"That was a difficult one, but something that the value proposition was just too high not to move forward in the endeavor to acquire high-end assets and talent," Davidson said. "The two first-round picks, as well as two legitimate NHL players that are still early in their 20s was just something we couldn't pass up. As we look to build a team that can sustain success down the road, that was just something we couldn't say no to."
The Fleury deal was a little more challenging because the player held all the cards. Minnesota started showing significant interest over the last few days and Fleury warmed up to that idea because of his relationship with GM Bill Guerin, with whom he won a Stanley Cup with in Pittsburgh in 2009.
The Blackhawks were prepared to keep Fleury for the rest of the season if that's what he wanted, but it would've stung if the organization didn't get something in return only for him to walk for nothing in the summer.
"We worked together on that," Davidson said of the Fleury trade discussions. "It was a very open, collaborative process. Minnesota obviously was a very favorable location for him, so I'm glad we could work out something that worked for the Wild, Marc and also the Blackhawks. I think it worked out for all parties."
The first baby step of the rebuilding process is in the books. The next date to circle is the 2022 NHL Draft, where things could get interesting if the Blackhawks see that as an opportunity to make more moves outside of just their selections.
"We'll see what transpires," Davidson said. "We'll have to see what happens with the salary cap, and there's a bunch of different pieces of information we're waiting on. I'm going to be open to anything. I'm going to be willing to listen and we'll see what presents itself.
"If something makes sense for the long-term prospects of the Chicago Blackhawks, we're going to explore that. We're not going to force anything. We're not going to do anything just to do something, but we're going to be open to whatever becomes available."