The Chicago Blackhawks have seen some major changes to their roster this offseason. Alex DeBrincat, Kirby Dach, Dominik Kubalik, and Dylan Strome are just a few of the players who are no longer with the team and given their rebuild, this is a trend that will likely continue this season. Chicago has seven players set to become unrestricted free agents (UFA) next offseason, but three stand out as most likely not to return in 2023-24. Here’s a look.
It feels strange to say this, but longtime Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is likely heading into his final season in Chicago. In an interview with The Athletic earlier in the summer, the 34-year-old openly said that the idea of sticking around for a five-plus-year rebuild “doesn’t sound appealing” to him at all (from ‘Jonathan Toews on his Blackhawks future and beyond: Trade, free agent, retirement or rebuild,’ The Athletic, 7/26/22). After a comment as honest as that, it would be a surprise to see the Winnipeg native re-sign with the Blackhawks next summer.
With the Blackhawks rebuilding, general manager (GM) Kyle Davidson is likely not against moving Toews before the 2023 Trade Deadline. Yet, some obstacles are worth addressing that would make this trade a bit challenging. First, Toews would need to waive his no-movement clause (NMC). That isn’t out of the realm of possibility, but he also carries a very expensive $10.5 million cap hit. Even if the Blackhawks retain half his salary, he would still have a very high cap hit for what he provides at this juncture of his career.’
Alas, no matter what happens this season, it is likely Toews’ last as a Blackhawk. Chicago fans should embrace what could be the captain’s last ride, as he is one of the best to ever play for the franchise. Here’s hoping that he puts together a bounce-back year in 2022-23, which would also heighten his trade value, of course.
Patrick Kane is the other Blackhawks legend who may be entering his final season with the team. The Buffalo native hasn’t expressed as much discontent with the team’s rebuild, but it’s also hard to imagine that he’s ecstatic about it. At 33 years old, the clock is ticking to win his fourth Stanley Cup championship, and that, unfortunately, will not occur in Chicago. Thus, perhaps he would be willing to waive his NMC at the deadline or sign with a contender next summer.
Kane has already been a hot name in the rumor mill and would be far easier to trade than Toews. The future Hall-of-Famer has yet to show signs of regression and is coming off a marvelous 92-point campaign in 78 games. He also has produced at over a point-per-game pace in each season since 2018-19, so there will be no shortage of interested teams if he’s made available. As the Blackhawks’ top trade asset, Davidson would be wise to move him if it means landing a first-round pick and top prospect in return.
Unless both Kane and Davidson are fully content to keep this relationship going, this could be the end of a truly spectacular era. We’ll have to wait and see what Kane does in what could be his last year in Chicago. Perhaps he will put together his best season ever, especially in a contract year.
When the Blackhawks signed Max Domi to a one-year contract this summer, it was a surprise. Fans did not expect management to make many additions to the roster, but Davidson has been fairly active. I think Domi has the potential to leave the biggest impact mong the free-agent signings, and that’s exactly why his tenure with the Blackhawks won’t go past the 2022-23 season.
Domi is going to be placed in a prime position to succeed with the Blackhawks. He will have a guaranteed spot in their top six and should see time on the team’s top power-play unit as well. This, in turn, could be exactly what enables him to have his best season since his 72-point campaign with the Montreal Canadiens in 2018-19. If he can have a big year, he will be a prime trading candidate at the deadline.
The Blackhawks are rebuilders, so Davidson’s primary objective is to strengthen the club’s prospect pool. Thus, if Domi has a strong offensive season before the deadline, it could be exactly what lands them a second-round pick and/or prospect. Even if he struggles in Chicago, they will still likely move him as a rental.
Nevertheless, it will be worth watching these three players in what will likely be their last season in Chicago. Seeing Toews and Kane in different jerseys would be hard to get used to, but with the direction the franchise is heading, it seems more likely than not. As for Domi, Davidson signed him to a one-year deal for a reason, so don’t be surprised to see him traded before the season is over.