We’re officially in the dog days of the NHL offseason, with the expansion draft, entry level draft and free agency frenzy all behind us. For the Chicago Blackhawks and the rest of the league, now is a time to relax a little. Teams can reflect on the past and also prepare for the future before the craziness of training camp, preseason and the upcoming 2021-22 season. Today our THW crew of Brooke LoFurno, Greg Boysen, Shaun Filippelli and Gail Kauchak ponder some of the offseason moves, the goalie situation, the Nylander extension, and more.
Blackhawks Biggest Offseason Player Loss
Each season every NHL team makes tweaks and changes to their roster, and this offseason was no exception for the Blackhawks. Whether they felt they didn’t fit into the future direction of the team, or they simply couldn’t agree on contract negotiations, the below players will no longer wear the red, white and black for the Blackhawks upcoming campaign:
- Adam Boqvist (D)
- David Kampf (C)
- Duncan Keith (D)
- Pius Suter (F)
- Nikita Zadorov (D)
Of the above player losses, who are you most disappointed about leaving, and why?
Shaun Says: Suter
While some departures were surprising in their own regard, I’m most disappointed that the Blackhawks won’t have Suter along for the ride next season. Despite some streaky production through his rookie campaign, he proved he had a knack for scoring and looked comfortable and confident with every shift.
It felt like a perfect scenario for a team looking to regain their identity, in that Chicago had infused another former Swiss-league MVP into their fold who one would only expect would continue to progress in the right way. Suter’s done that throughout his entire career, showing greater year-over-year impact. So I suspected the same pattern would follow. Unfortunately, we won’t see that come to fruition in Chicago.
Brooke Says: Hinostroza
After seeing how Hinostroza fit in and produced right away after being re-acquired from the Florida Panthers, it was disappointing to see him not get re-signed. Especially since he signed with the Buffalo Sabres for one-year, $1 million. His value is cheap for what he can provide, which is speed and offense; two things you want to see in a depth player.
Greg Says: Boqvist
I still think Boqvist will be a dynamic offensive defenseman before it’s all said and done. Maybe that was never going to happen here in Chicago. We’ll never know now. However, if Seth Jones is the player Stan Bowman is paying for, the price paid will be more than fair for years to come.
Gail Says: Suter
I’ll bet you all predicted I would say Kampf here. After all, I’ve sang his praises as the ultimate underdog, and for his attributes at the faceoff dot and the defensive side of his game. But with the acquisitions of Tyler Johnson and Jujhar Khaira, I could see why the Blackhawks felt they could part with Kampf. Both additional players are centers with good faceoff numbers, are responsible defensively, AND offer more offense than Kampf does. Plus, the Blackhawks got Khaira ($975,000) for less than Kampf ($1.5 million).
So my pick for who the Blackhawks will miss the most is Suter. Yeah, I get that they were playing hard ball with the financials because since they went out and picked up a few higher paid veterans, and I’m not sure if I would have paid Suter $3.25 cap hit for two seasons. Kudos to Suter and his agent for getting that with the Detroit Red Wings.
But from a purely hockey point of view, Suter was a good fit with this retooling team. He took on a larger role than he was really ready for last season, but still performed admirably. He was a great complementary player who could be utilized up and down the lineup. Plus, I feel his ceiling is high, and the Red Wings were smart to pick him up. Time will tell if the Blackhawks eventually regret this move.
Playing Time For Fleury & Lankinen
There’s a whole new dynamic now that veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has committed to play with the Blackhawks. Last season, Kevin Lankinen established himself as the starter between Malcolm Subban, Collin Delia and himself. But his numbers faltered as the season went along. Many feel he was entrusted with the starting role too soon. Give us your thoughts on the balance of playing time you’d like to see from the Vezina-winning goaltender and his young protégé, Lankinen?
You don’t bring in a proven veteran goalie like Fleury, let alone as the most recent Vezina Trophy winner, to ride the pine. I’d also suspect part of what convinced him to take on this challenge was he was guaranteed a certain mark of playing time that he hasn’t been granted in recent seasons with the Vegas Golden Knights.
Fleury is the type of goalie that wants to play, and his teams are all the better for it. I expect to see him start 55-60 games, which still gives Lankinen a healthy dose of action to further his game all the while.
I think Fleury will take the brunt of the season, which makes sense and I’m completely okay with that. I see Lankinen’s playing time being less than last year. The only time I see him getting significant playing tie is if the team misses the playoffs again. I believe Lankinen will play a supporting back-up role with playing after back-to-back games or whenever Fleury needs a rest.
Obviously, Fleury will be the number one goaltender, but you also have to limit how you use him. He and Lankinen could be a very good tandem. I would head into the season planning on starting Fleury two out of every three games. Of course, as the season progresses, both netminders will have hot streaks, so when Lankinen has his, give him more starts. Fleury is getting up there in age, so if you want him to be in top form for a stretch run and hopefully a playoff push, you need to be careful with how you use him early in the season.
Obviously, Fleury is your guy. He’s the veteran and proven starter and he should get the majority of the time in net. But I don’t want to see the Blackhawks just push Lankinen into a purely back-up role. Sure, he’s technically the back-up. But he’s also there to develop. That being said, he should get a substantial chance to do just that.
This tandem probably won’t be a 50/50 split, but I’d like to see it be something close to 60/40. Fleury is a proven goalie, and you know you can win with him. But he’s not the longterm fit in Chicago. Lankinen could be. So give Lankinen a solid opportunity to grow and prove himself.
If it eventually leads to the playoffs…well let’s just take it one step at a time.
The Blackhawks took care of some final offseason business by signing the last of their free agents on Mon., Aug. 16. Alex Nylander and the club agreed to a one-year contract for $874,125. Nylander didn’t play last season while he was recovering from knee surgery, so this is another prove-it deal for the 23-year-old winger. What do you think of the deal, and of Nylander’s potential for the upcoming season?
I love this deal. I think it’s perfect for both sides. It gets Nylander locked in, while allowing the Blackhawks a better opportunity to truly see what he can do. It feels as low-risk, high-reward as can be with all things considered.
That said, I also have a feeling we’ll see Nylander reach a level he’s yet to in this league and possibly even surprise many with the impact he’s able to influence throughout the year. I’m not suggesting he’ll be among Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat and Dominik Kubalik per se, but it feels like a good opportunity for him to finally win over this fanbase.
It’s hard to be mad at that contract. It’s a cheap deal that doesn’t hurt the team at all. If Nylander is able to bounce back, then it will be a steal. He has a big year coming up and with his skill set, he should be able to put that all together consistently. If he does that, it will serve him and the team well. I’m excited to see how he plays with a chip on his shoulder. I think he will do well!
The deal is fine. There is virtually no risk with a high-reward potential. Bowman is giving Nylander a very long leash to show that he was right in giving up on Henri Jokiharju to acquire him. I have zero expectations for Nylander this season; therefore, there is no way to be disappointed. I hope he is a pleasant surprise and puts things together, but I won’t be holding my breath.
The Blackhawks committed to Nylander, so it goes without saying they would give him a qualifying offer after a year off due to knee surgery. Even though he didn’t do much in the 2019-20 season, his ceiling is still high and the Blackhawks are looking to get the most out of their investment.
Unfortunately, Nylander doesn’t have much to bargain with. Hence, another prove-it deal. The Blackhawks really have nothing to lose, and Nylander has everything to gain. But I personally don’t hold out much hope for the 23-year-old’s progression. He was given every chance in the world in the 2019-20 season, playing within in the top-six the majority of the time. He didn’t do much with it.
I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think he has much more to offer. Nylander could easily be a bust this season; but at least the Blackhawks didn’t pay a whole lot of money to find that out.
Blackhawk Forward On the Outside Looking In
The Nylander extension also adds yet another forward to a plethora of forwards signed with the Blackhawks for the coming season. Not everyone is going to find a spot as an everyday player. In your opinion, which forward do you feel is going to find themselves on the outside looking in this season? Just name your player, and we can further discuss this on our upcoming Blackhawks Banter show.
Shaun – Dylan Strome
Brooke – Ryan Carpenter
Greg – Brett Connolly
Gail – Connolly
That will do it for our preview post, but please join us on Tuesday’s for our weekly Blackhawks Banter show where we further discuss the above and much more. You can subscribe to our YouTube Channel, follow along on Twitter, and find us on your preferred podcast platform. Our most recent episode is featured below for your viewing pleasure.
Gail Kauchak has covered the Chicago Blackhawks as a content writer since 2014. She previously wrote for Fansided’s Blackhawk Up, and has been part of The Hockey Writer’s team since 2017. It’s not always easy to balance life’s responsibility’s with one’s passion, but Gail’s doing her best to make it happen. Let’s put it this way; she’s probably reading and writing about hockey instead of cooking and cleaning. Shh, don’t tell her husband!
Follow Gail for her unique commentary about this storied franchise. And be sure to catch her and the rest of the Blackhawks’ crew on their weekly Blackhawks Banter show, as well as follow her on Twitter.