NHL Trade Deadline

Blackhawks' Kyle Davidson Laying Groundwork on How He Plans to Operate as NHL GM

Davidson laying groundwork on how he plans to operate as GM originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

ANAHEIM — When Kyle Davidson was named the Blackhawks' permanent general manager on March 1, he was beginning his front-office career as the head guy with a clean slate.

Prior to that point, Davidson had spoken to the media only once and it was when he was named the interim GM in October 2021. Nobody knew much about him and there were so many questions about his philosophical views on roster construction, whether a team should play this way or that way, etc.

Some questions, however, simply couldn't be answered in words. They will be revealed through actions over time.

You know that popular saying in life that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior? Well, Davidson is beginning to lay the groundwork on how he's going to operate as an NHL GM moving forward and teams around the league are probably starting to pick up on it.

Less than a month into the job, Davidson has shown that he won't trade anybody just for the sake of it, even though he showed his cards publicly by declaring a rebuild. He has his price, and if it's not met, he's comfortable standing his ground.

We first saw it with the Brandon Hagel blockbuster trade. Davidson admitted he "certainly" wasn't actively shopping him, but Tampa Bay came with an offer that Chicago couldn't refuse and the rest is history. Davidson wasn't going to settle for anything less than 100 cents on the dollar, and you could argue he wasn't going to pull the trigger on a deal like that unless it was more than that.

The latest example of his negotiation tactics? According to The Athletic's Michael Russo, Davidson's asking price for Marc-Andre Fleury was a first-round pick and he wouldn't budge when Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin tried to get him to soften his position. In fact, Davidson reportedly told Guerin on Sunday that he was going to start Fleury later that night — on the eve of the NHL trade deadline — if Guerin didn't meet the demands, and that's exactly what happened.

After sleeping on it, Guerin reportedly conceded on Monday morning and was willing to part ways with the first-round selection — which he had stated numerous times in the past that he originally wasn't prepared to do — only if there was a condition attached to it. The two sides eventually met in the middle, and Fleury was dealt to Minnesota.

"We just didn’t have anything tangible or purpose to sit him out," Davidson said. "It’s something you’re always thinking about and always considering. But if there’s nothing that’s far enough down the road or something you think may be threatened, then they’re Chicago Blackhawks and they’re going to play. So that was the thought process."

And you know what? I actually respect Davidson's approach. No doubt it was an incredibly risky move to play Fleury on Sunday — which was magnified when he lost his glove in the second period and tried stopping a puck with his bare hand — but the second Fleury is yanked off the ice without a deal in place, Davidson loses leverage on a trade that may or may not happen.

It could've been easy for Davidson to jump at the idea of getting anything he could for Fleury because Minnesota was really the only dance partner and the team Fleury had agreed to be traded to. From that aspect, Davidson didn't have much leverage, but he still held firm and it paid off.

We saw the opposite happen with Calvin de Haan, who's set to become a pending unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He drew interest from multiple contenders, but none of them met Davidson's price.

While common sense says to just get what you can for a player who probably won't be here next season, Davidson is wisely playing the long game. He knows that if he caves or lowers his price when crunch time hits, other GMs will take note and wait him out in a potential future trade.

Now, Davidson has made it clear he won't bluff.

"If the value’s not met, then you value the player more than anyone else," Davidson said. "If something didn’t happen, we hold more value in that player than the other team. ... We’re happy with the players that are here. We value them more than other teams around the league, clearly, so we’re happy they’re still with the Blackhawks."

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