On the opening day of the 2022 NHL draft, the Chicago Blackhawks shipped Alex DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators for a first-round pick (seventh overall), a second-rounder (39th overall) and a 2024 third-round pick. Less than one year later, the 26-year-old soon might be on the move again.
In mid-April, Postmedia's Bruce Garrioch told TSN that DeBrincat was non-committal about signing a contract extension with the Senators. That could put his future with the team in jeopardy.
"The Senators won't keep him unless they can get some kind of long-term extension in place," Garrioch said. "… I think there's a possibility that at the draft, we may see Alex DeBrincat get moved."
A restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer, DeBrincat is also a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility. He's completing a three-year contract with an average annual value of $6.4 million, but he earned $9 million in actual salary this season. That's how much it'll cost the Senators to qualify his rights for 2023-24.
Senators general manager Pierre Dorion has indicated the club will qualify his rights for next season. Meanwhile, DeBrincat told the Ottawa media that he was "definitely open for anything" but wanted to discuss his future with his family and agent.
DeBrincat would attract plenty of attention in the trade market. A six-year NHL veteran in his playing prime, he's tallied 27 or more goals five times, including two 41-goal seasons. The lack of comparable scoring wingers in this summer's free-agent market would only further boost his trade value.
Here's a look at the five best landing spots for Alex DeBrincat based on factors such as roster need, salary-cap space and whether a club is in contention or rebuilding.
The Calgary Flames face a summer of change after missing the playoffs this season. Brad Treliving stepped down as general manager in mid-April, leaving the Flames in search of a replacement before the NHL draft in June and the start of free agency on July 1.
Treliving's replacement must address the Flames' decline in production this season. They tumbled from sixth overall in goals-per-game average (3.55) in 2021-22 to 19th (3.15) this past year. Perhaps they'll look to DeBrincat to fix that problem.
Flames centers Mikael Backlund and Elias Lindholm are both a year away from unrestricted free agency. Both were non-committal about signing contract extensions during their end-of-season interviews.
The Flames could try to keep the 28-year-old Lindholm happy by bringing in DeBrincat to play on his wing. They have only $1.3 million in cap space for 2023-24, so they'd need a few cost-cutting trades to create room for him. Perhaps they could move the 34-year-old Backlund to acquire additional assets to send out for DeBrincat.
That could prove crucial for the Flames if they're reluctant to move promising youngsters such as Matt Coronato, Jakob Pelletier or Dustin Wolf. Still, one of them might have to go to the Senators to complete the deal.