If trade happens, Dominik Kubalik’s Blackhawks tenure will come to unsatisfying end

The Hawks are making progress on trading Kubalik, who has endured an awful season after lighting up Chicago with his elite shot the last two years.

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Dominik Kubalik has struggled to score at his usual rate this season.

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Two Blackhawks fans held a large Czech flag up to the glass behind the net during warmups Tuesday, showing appreciation for Dominik Kubalik before what might’ve been his last home game at the United Center.

Despite all the attention after the 2-1 overtime loss to the Bruins centering on it being Marc-Andre Fleury’s possible Chicago send-off, Kubalik and Calvin de Haan have much better odds of being gone by the trade deadline Monday.

The Hawks are making progress on a Kubalik trade, a source said Wednesday, with the Ducks and Oilers — teams long linked to the 26-year-old wing — the front-runners.

If a deal materializes, it would be a frustrating end to Kubalik’s once-promising Hawks tenure.

He has endured an awful season. His once-elite shooting ability, which caught the Hawks’ eye during his 2018-19 MVP season in Switzerland and earned him his first NHL contract in 2019-20, has faded significantly.

At even strength, Kubalik has attempted 13.0 shots per 60 minutes, down from 15.2 and 15.4 his first two seasons. Only 52.4% of those have been recorded as scoring chances, down from 63.7% and 57.9%. And he has hit the net on only 56.0% of those attempts, down from 58.5% and 63.4%.

On the power play, his trends look a lot better, but they’re not leading to an uptick in production.

The result is Kubalik has scored only 11 goals in 61 games (0.18 goals per game) after getting 30 goals in 68 games as a rookie (0.44 per game) — en route to a third-place finish in Calder Trophy voting — and adding 17 goals in 56 games (0.30 per game) last season. In his last 18 games, he has scored once.

“It’s obviously hard to expect that,” Kubalik said March 8. “You always want to be better; you always want more. Even when you score two goals, you’re thinking about a hat trick.

“If you don’t score, you’re thinking about putting some shots on and creating something for yourself or your teammates. Find a different way, that’s what I’m trying to do. This season, I had stretches where I had a lot of shots, and I didn’t score. Then I had less shots, and I scored. It’s just what it is. Even if I’m not producing, I’ve got to do something to help the team win.”

Interim coach Derek King has held several lengthy one-on-one video-review sessions with Kubalik to try to rejuvenate him, and he recently lauded Kubalik for being “confident enough where he can just come in, sit down and talk.”

Indeed, Kubalik has presented himself throughout his 2.5-year Hawks tenure as exceptionally honest, accountable and forthright, and he has become a popular teammate. He has helped the Hawks create a prospect pipeline from his hometown of Plzen, Czech Republic, and helped acclimate Philipp Kurashev and countryman Jakub Galvas to the locker room.

He’s unquestionably a talented player, too. His off-the-charts surge on Jonathan Toews’ wing in January 2020 won’t be forgotten for a while, as it demonstrated all the best parts of his game: a knack for finding scoring areas, underrated upper-body strength used to create space to shoot and, of course, a bullet of a shot.

Selling him off at the 2022 deadline at his lowest value in years probably wasn’t what Hawks management envisioned for his future.

That’s not to say it’s unwise. Management has changed since then, and as a somewhat-expensive pending restricted free agent, Kubalik doesn’t fit the rebuild too well. But it would be a shame to see his tenure end like this.

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