3 Blackhawks Free Agents Most Likely to Return in 2022-23

The Chicago Blackhawks have a lot of players on expiring contracts. After a summer of spending, the team has been underwhelming, with an 11-15-4 record. As a result, we could see some major changes this offseason, including multiple players let go. However, expect the following three free agents to return for the 2022-23 season.

Kirby Dach

No player fits this list better than Kirby Dach. The 20-year-old center is in the final year of his entry-level contract and is due for a raise from his $925,000 cap hit. The Blackhawks selected him third overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, expecting him to be part of the franchise long-term. 

Kirby Dach, Chicago Blackhawks
Kirby Dach, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Unfortunately, Dach has cooled off a little bit offensively this season; in 30 games, he has five goals and 13 points. That kind of production isn’t bad, but it is a notable dip from last year when he had 10 points in 18 contests. Still, things may be heading in the right direction for the Saskatchewan native, as he has recorded three points over his last three games.

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The big question with Dach is whether the Blackhawks will sign him to a bridge deal or long-term. If he heats up as the season progresses, we could see the latter. This season alone, we’ve seen talented young forwards like Jack Hughes (New Jersey Devils) and Drake Batherson (Ottawa Senators) receive long-term contracts, so maybe Chicago will follow suit with their big center.

Caleb Jones

Before the Blackhawks won the Seth Jones sweepstakes this offseason, they first acquired his younger brother Caleb Jones from the Edmonton Oilers. Although the latter may not be a top-pairing defenseman like his brother, it’s hard to believe that the Blackhawks won’t re-sign him. He’s 24 years old and will be a restricted free agent this summer, and why break up the family duo.

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In three seasons with the Oilers, Jones was primarily a depth defenseman with six goals and 22 points in 93 games. Those numbers aren’t bad, but he also had limited chances to thrive in Edmonton. With the Blackhawks this season, he missed all of October due to a wrist injury, but since recovering, he has appeared in 10 contests with a goal, two assists and a plus-2 rating.

If he continues to play this way, he should be a very solid bottom-pair defenseman for the Blackhawks moving forward. He will likely land himself a short-term deal at an easily affordable cap hit.

Dominik Kubalik

The Blackhawks have a big decision to make when it comes to Dominik Kubalik. The 26-year-old winger will be a restricted free agent this offseason, so it won’t be a challenge to bring him back. However, the team must determine if they are willing to give him his required $3.7 million qualifying offer. If not, he will have the opportunity to test the market as an unrestricted free agent.

Dominik Kubalik, Chicago Blackhawks
Dominik Kubalik, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Kubalik has struggled this season with six goals and 12 points in 30 games and a minus-11 rating. Yet, he played well during his first two seasons with the Blackhawks, so he has the potential to bounce back. As a rookie, he scored 30 goals and 46 points in 68 games. He followed that up with a respectable 38 points in 56 games as a sophomore. He has the tools to be a legitimate top-six winger, and we’ve seen that of late, as he has two goals and two assists over his last four games.

This could be a flip-of-the-coin situation, but if Kubalik shows signs of being the player he was as recently as last season, it would be shocking to see Chicago let him walk for nothing.

Considering all of the Blackhawks’ unrestricted free agents this summer, any of them could be wearing a different jersey by next season. Barring a complete turnaround, the Blackhawks should be sellers at the trade deadline, and players like Calvin de Haan, Erik Gustafsson, Kevin Lankinen and Ryan Carpenter seem like prime rental candidates. With that, future Hall of Fame goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury flirted with retirement this past offseason and might go through with it this summer or he could be moved to a contender at the deadline – the Oilers stand out as a possible destination. With all of this, these three players seem the most likely to stay in Chicago next season.

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