Blackhawks Bytes: Draft Lottery, Free Agency, Richardson & More

Welcome to the May edition of Blackhawks Bytes, a series featuring quotes and comments from players, coaches, management, journalists and fans alike concerning everything Chicago Blackhawks. The purpose of this ongoing column is to capture a slice of the existing outlook, attitudes and culture surrounding the team. Please join me as we have some fun with the everyday, albeit fascinating aspect of human nature; the power of words.

Related – Blackhawks Bytes: Tinordi, Dickinson, Katchouk, Toews

The long-awaited NHL Draft Lottery has finally come and gone, and we now know the Blackhawks will be selecting first overall in the upcoming 2023 NHL Draft! With just 11.5% odds of landing the first overall pick, this was certainly not expected. But obviously not unwelcome! Let’s get to that and more as we unwrap this franchise-altering event, along with how it will impact the offseason for the organization.

Draft Lottery a Success for the Blackhawks

Well, the above heading is a bit of an understatement. On Monday night the ping pong balls bounced the right way for the Blackhawks, as it was determined the organization will receive the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft. This will almost unanimously be 17-year-old sensation Connor Bedard.

Connor Bedard Regina Pats
Connor Bedard pictured here with the Regina Pats. Now that the 2023 NHL Draft Lottery results are determined, he will most likely be a member of the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2023-24 season. (Keith Hershmiller / Regina Pats)

We’ll get to more on Bedard in the coming days, but he’s considered a generational talent the likes of Connor McDavid and Patrick Kane. Speaking of Kane, he’s the only other No. 1 pick (in 2007) the Blackhawks have had in franchise history. Now there will be a second.

The 2023 NHL Draft will be held on June 28-28 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. It should be an exciting one for the Blackhawks. Besides their No. 1 pick discussed above, they also have these selections.

Having two first-round picks and four second-round picks is nothing to scoff at, and the Blackhawks are set up quite nicely. They should be able to add to a prospect pool that’s already top-notch. It might take a few years, but the future is looking bright in Chicago.

Blackhawks Banking on Flexibility in Free Agency

Let’s move on to free agency, which officially begins on July 1. At the season-ending press conference, general manager Kyle Davidson addressed his game plan.

Now, the Blackhawks currently have just over $41 million in cap space headed into next season, which is the most in the NHL. Based upon Davidson’s above comments, I wouldn’t expect them to make any big splashes. All the big names will be looking for longer term than Davidson is willing to give.

That said, this plan could change now that Bedard is in the mix. I could see the organization being more likely to add some experienced talent around Bedard sooner rather than later. It will be interesting to see how the Blackhawks tackle this now that they’ll be receiving such a game-changing player in that first overall pick.

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Richardson Reflects on 2022-23 Season

The offseason aside, we can look back even farther to some intangible success the Blackhawks achieved in the 2022-23 campaign. Chicago’s head coach, Luke Richardson, appears poised to lead the way to success in the coming seasons. After his first season behind the bench, the 54-year-old is happy with the strides the team has made.

I think we’ve pretty much implemented what we wanted as a work ethic and as a standard just like a benchmark from where we’re going to start next year and get better from there. That’s going to be our next step like our work ethic and our never give up attitude is always going to be there now and is never going to go away. 

Last year’s squad didn’t have a whole lot of talent, and they purposely weren’t built to succeed. Yet they set out to do everything in their power to be the best they could be, despite their deficiencies. With the leadership of the coaching staff, they worked on a positive mindset and bonded as a team. Every night they came to compete, even if the odds were heavily against them. This became their culture and their identity.

With this as their baseline, Richardson hopes the team can continue to build on that moving forward. Sure, they will be integrating a lot of new players that weren’t there last season. But it appears the right culture has already been established, and should become contagious.

Luke Richardson Chicago Blackhawks
Head coach Luke Richardson worked hard in his first season to develop the right culture for the Chicago Blackhawks. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Good teams often-times have many talented players. But great teams possess talent and that inner drive to succeed. Let’s see if the Blackhawks can hold on to the momentum Richardson speaks of, while they continue to grow and add more talent. It’s an intangible that can be hard to maintain, but it’s priceless if they can keep it.

Blackhawks’ Wedding Bells

For our final tidbit of fun, a couple of Blackhawks will be tying the knot this summer. That’s right; both Connor Murphy and Jujhar Khaira are planning weddings. The Blackhawks most tenured player and stalwart defenseman offered this guidance to his teammate.

That’s some sage advice from Murphy, as wedding expenses can certainly add up! Nevertheless, I’m sure all involved will have beautiful nuptials and lots of happy memories to savor.

Murphy is signed with the Blackhawks through the 2025-26 season, while Khaira is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Many are questioning whether the Blackhawks will re-sign the 28-year-old forward. He slots into a bottom-six role, a position of which the organization has a plethora of similarly inclined players at their disposal. Plus, they’ll be looking to incorporate more younger players this coming season as their rebuild continues.  

Jujhar Khaira Chicago Blackhawks
Will Jujhar Khaira be a member of the Chicago Blackhawks next season? (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

While Murphy will very likely don the Blackhawks’ sweater this coming season, it remains to be seen whether Khaira will as well. If so, who knows; perhaps we’ll be hearing some baby announcements in the future!  

Related – 5 Positives From the Blackhawks 2022-23 Season

Thank you for tuning in to another edition of Blackhawks Bytes! Good things are on the horizon as the Blackhawks have gained the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. More to follow regarding the draft, free agency and all the exciting news surrounding our favorite team. Keep it here at The Hockey Writers for all our latest news and analysis.

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