Despite the Chicago Blackhawks making it quite clear that they were going to take a more serious approach to this rebuild, witnessing such drastic turnover in the process isn’t any easier for their most loyal supporters to digest. Once familiar faces are either already gone or are preparing to be in the near future.
In this edition of Blackhawks News & Rumours, we’ll reflect on how some of the biggest names to represent the organization in recent seasons will no longer hold such a role.
Keith Retires From the NHL
Regardless of the fact that Duncan Keith spent his last year in the NHL playing for the Edmonton Oilers, he’ll always be remembered as a Blackhawk. Rightfully so, too. Not only as a result of the 16 years he spent in Chicago, but because of what he accomplished while there.
Easily one of the most dominant defensemen to ever suit up for the Blackhawks, Keith owned his reputation as an elite workhorse. Consider the fact that Keith averaged 24:57 through 1,192 games played for Chicago and that point is easily illustrated.
What’s more, though, was that he was impactful in ways that stretched beyond just managing his minutes. Not always looked at as the most dynamic blue liner, Keith was still able to accumulate 625 points while with the franchise. That puts him in 10th on their all-time production list and second among defensemen, behind only Doug Wilson.
Keith’s on-ice present epitomized the passion that fuelled his Blackhawks rosters through their dynasty run of the 2010s. Always involved in the most crucial of plays, at either end of the ice, he was as important a factor in those three Stanley Cup wins as anyone. Further evidenced by being awarded the 2015 Conn Smyth Trophy.
That his trophy case also includes two Norris Trophies should tell you all you need to know about his legacy. One of the best to play the position in this era of the game, with all of his most meaningful accolades being awarded to him as a member of the Blackhawks.
Safe to say, we’ll see Keith’s numbers hit the rafters in the United Center sooner than later. Congratulations on a great career, Duncan!
DeBrincat Wanted to Remain a Blackhawk
While most are still trying to grapple with a reality that will see Alex DeBrincat suit up for another franchise next season, he hasn’t shied away from sharing his thoughts with regards to departing. What’s worse, his insights seem to squash a popular theory that helped support why it would have seemed justified to part ways with him.
Change is inevitable for a rebuilding roster. Yet, it’s safe to say that not many could have predicted the type of teardown currently underway at the hands of Kyle Davidson. Part of his plan included moving DeBrincat, in return for three draft picks.
Onlookers were quick to crown the Ottawa Senators the winners of that transaction, given that they didn’t even have to give up an actual prospect — whether NHL-ready or otherwise — for a proven 40-goal scorer barely entering their prime.
Meanwhile, some have speculated that DeBrincat wouldn’t have been re-signing in Chicago at the end of his current term, set to expire at the conclusion of 2022-23. In saying that, the logic was that it made more sense for Davidson to extract value while he could rather than watching DeBrincat potentially walk for nothing.
Well, those respective theories were recently squashed by the 24-year-old himself.
“I didn’t necessarily see this coming,” DeBrincat said. “I saw the rumors and stuff, and I’d had a couple conversations with Kyle, I knew it was a possibility, but I was ready to be in Chicago for a long time. That was just the way I thought about it. I’ve never been traded before in any league — I kind of stick to the same teams for the most part — so this is a different experience for me.
DeBrincat expressing his desire to remain a Blackhawk only makes it all that much more difficult for the fanbase. On his way to becoming the face of the franchise in Chicago before being traded, Ottawa will now be the benefactor of all that comes alongside landing his type of talent.
Strome & Kubalik Hit Free Agency
With the NHL’s free agency window opening up as of July 13, the league is set to see an increase in player movement. While no one should be surprised that some Blackhawks made the list of those hitting the open market, what may be somewhat shocking is the number of their players that were guided there.
Specifically, Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik stand out as athletes that could have meant more to the franchise. Whether in terms of sticking around to help impact the club as it works to progress or, at the very least, being actively leveraged in trade negotiations while they were still under contract with Chicago.
There’s no denying that Strome has been playing his way off this team for the past few seasons or that Kubalik failed to follow up on an impressive rookie campaign. But, that doesn’t mean these aren’t talented players. Strome has shown what he can do when placed in the right scenario and Kubalik is a proven 30-goal scorer.
Like a number of their former teammates, it’s safe to say that both Strome and Kubalik will be suiting up for another organization at the start of 2022-23. Which lineups will be wise enough to take a calculated risk on what either can add is yet to be seen, but they’ll likely be achieving more in another city than Chicago is prepared to permit anytime soon anyway.
Given the moves that this franchise has already coordinated to this point in the offseason, it seems as though it’s much further along. Yet, with most of the summer remaining, bet on even more moves being made before it’s all said and done. Whether or not they are favourable ones, though, is less likely.