With nine regular-season games remaining, the Chicago Blackhawks have gotten closer to having the best odds to land the first-overall pick in this year’s draft. The team has lost its last five games and sits 30th in the league standings with 54 points, only one point ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets and San Jose Sharks for last place. As the offseason inches closer, here are the latest news and rumors surrounding the team.
Blackhawks Host Pride Night
Arguably the biggest storyline surrounding Sunday’s (March 26) 4-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks had nothing to do with the game. The Blackhawks hosted Pride night in support of the LGBTQ+ community; however, they opted against wearing special warmup jerseys reportedly due to safety concerns regarding Russian law. Defenseman Nikita Zaitsev is a Moscow native and forward Philipp Kurashev has Russian family.
Related: Blackhawks: Revisiting the Brandon Hagel Trade 1 Year Later
Latest News & Highlights
Head coach Luke Richardson expressed disappointment over the decision last week while team CEO Danny Wirtz reportedly declined multiple interview requests regarding the topic (from ‘Blackhawks management’s silence on Pride night decision speaks volumes,’ The Athletic, 03/26/23). The Blackhawks became the fourth NHL team this season to opt against wearing special jerseys, following the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, and Minnesota Wild.
Despite the decision, some fans who attended the game appreciated the festivities (from “Pride Night at the Chicago Blackhawks game left some fans upset while others were glad the event happened,” Chicago Tribune, 03/26/23). As part of the evening, the team hosted a pre-game event in the United Center Atrium while inviting the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus and the Chicago Gay Hockey Association to perform. Assistant general manager Meghan Hunter also hosted a Q&A with Brock McGillis, the first openly gay male professional hockey player.
Reichel Continues Impressing
Despite losing this past weekend, one positive was Lukas Reichel. The 20-year-old German rookie forward is on a two-game goal streak, scoring in Saturday’s (March 25) 3-1 loss to the Wild and Sunday against the Canucks. Through 17 games, Reichel has tallied nine points (five goals, four assists) and is a minus-2. He has one season left at $925,000 on his entry-level contract (ELC) before becoming a restricted free agent (RFA) in 2024.
Reichel’s one of Chicago’s few players right now who will likely be part of the future. He recorded just one assist in 11 games last season but has developed well since, showing great skill and creativity. With Andreas Athanasiou and MacKenzie Entwistle as his current linemates, it’ll be exciting to see what he eventually accomplishes with more talent around him.
Tinordi Dealing With Hip Injury
After Sunday’s loss, Richardson said defenseman Jarred Tinordi has been dealing with a hip injury for most of the regular season. The 31-year-old left the ice during the second period and didn’t return. It’s unclear if he’ll miss any time, but he may need to address the injury over the offseason, according to Charlie Roumeliotis of NBC Sports Chicago.
Related: Blackhawks Bytes: Tinordi, Dickinson, Katchouk, Toews
Tinordi is finishing his first season with the Blackhawks, in which he has recorded eight points (two goals, six assists) through 42 games. If he misses action, it won’t be the first time this season he has sat out due to health concerns. However, he has mainly been a positive surprise after the team claimed him off waivers and had even been serving as an alternate captain.
The Minnesota native will become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) this offseason. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Blackhawks brought him back, knowing they’ll need to get to the cap floor. Like Connor Murphy and Seth Jones, he could also continue being a mentor for some of Chicago’s younger defensemen.
Ludwinski Signs ELC
Following Ryder Rolston and Wyatt Kaiser earlier this month, the Blackhawks signed forward prospect Paul Ludwinski to his ELC on Saturday. The team drafted Ludwinski 39th overall in 2022 as one of the three picks they received in the Alex DeBrincat trade. His contract, which carries a $931,667 cap hit, is set to run through 2025-26.
Ludwinski suffered a concussion at the Blackhawks’ training camp in September, causing him to miss the first two weeks of his second season with the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Kingston Frontenacs. He ultimately skated in 47 games with the team, tallying 34 points (nine goals, 25 assists). He recorded 43 points (16 goals, 27 assists) through 67 games last season.
While he isn’t the biggest player at 5-foot-11, Ludwinski’s coaches have praised his speed. Frontenacs head coach Luca Caputi compared his speed to an F1 car while bringing great leadership traits (from ‘Blackhawks prospect Paul Ludwinski only knows one speed: ‘He’s like an F1 ca’,’ The Athletic, 10/27/22). It’s too early to say whether he’ll be part of the Blackhawks’ future, but this is encouraging to hear.
Toews Back on Ice
Richardson confirmed on Sunday that Jonathan Toews began skating with the team during their five-game road trip. The Blackhawks’ captain hasn’t played since Jan. 28 and later announced that he had been dealing with symptoms of long COVID and chronic immune response syndrome, which caused him to miss all of 2020-21. Though it’s unclear if he’ll skate in another game this season, Richardson said he hopes he could return to practice as early as this week.
As the longest-tenured Blackhawk, Toews’ future is uncertain. He’s set to become a UFA this summer and has reportedly considered retirement (from “End of the road for Toews? Blackhawks captain ‘seriously considering’ retirement, sources say,” Daily Herald, 03/17/23). With nine games left, he might be running out of chances to play his final game with the team if he retires or signs somewhere else this offseason. That would be a welcome sight, but his health should come first, of course.
The Blackhawks continue their four-game homestand on Tuesday night against the Dallas Stars. The team is 1-2-0 against the Stars this season, and it’ll mark Max Domi’s return to the United Center after the team let him go earlier this month. Puck drop is 8:30 p.m. EST/7:30 p.m. CST.