The Chicago Blackhawks had the busiest offseason in recent memory. They let over nine players go in an attempt to accomplish a total rebuild. But as many players left the club, just as many came in. The organization signed 10 free agents this summer, and with eight of them being brand-new faces to the franchise, our writing team started a “Meet the New Blackhawks” series to get better acquainted with the roster. The next player on the list is arguably the biggest free-agent signing by Chicago, forward Max Domi.
Domi’s NHL Career
Domi’s career started with the Arizona Coyotes after being drafted in the first round (12th overall) in the 2013 NHL Draft. He was expected to be a big piece of the Coyotes’ core to keep them in playoff contention. One year earlier, in 2012, the Yotes lost the Western Conference Final to the Los Angeles Kings, so adding Domi seemed like a slam dunk to build off of that playoff performance.
Domi made his NHL debut in 2015 and had a promising rookie season in the desert with 18 goals, 34 assists, and 52 points in 81 games, making him second on the team in scoring behind former captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson (55 points), and fourth-best among rookies in the NHL. The following two seasons in Arizona saw a significant drop in goals. In 2016-17, he had hand surgery, which resulted in him missing a considerable amount of time, but ultimately produced 18 goals in two seasons. He was traded to the Montreal Canadiens in June 2018 for Alex Galchenyuk as the Coyotes were looking for assets for their rebuild, having missed the playoffs for five straight years.
When Domi arrived in Montreal, his production exploded. In 2018-19, he had a career-high 72 points in 82 games (17 goals, 27 assists), followed by 44 points in 71 games in 2019-20. He got traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets in Oct. 2020 and signed a two-year, $10.6 million contract extension. His time in Columbus was disastrous. In the two seasons he spent there, he had a career low in points with 56 points in 107 games (18 goals, 38 assists). He fell out of favor with former head coach John Tortorella, who gave him the first healthy scratches of his career. He was then traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in May 2022 and had two goals, five assists, and seven points in 19 games while totaling six points in 14 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The highlight of his season was Game 7 with the Hurricanes against the Boston Bruins, where Domi had two goals and three points, which ultimately led to the ‘Canes reaching the second round of the playoffs.
Domi proved that he could still be a difference maker; therefore, Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson signed him to a one-year, $3 million contract as a free agent on July 13. He has faced struggles with being on his fifth NHL team, yet, there is a reason why he is continually sought after.
Domi’s Fit With Blackhawks
One may think signing a 27-year-old, eight-year NHL veteran to a team going through a complete rebuild is questionable. Still, Davidson mentioned that the reason behind the signing is that he can play in the top six and bring a high compete level, which the team has been targeting all summer (from ‘Everything Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson said about Kane, Toews, free agency and more,’ The Athletic NHL, 07/14/2022).
Domi also has experience with head coach Luke Richardson as he was the assistant coach of the Canadiens during Domi’s stint there and said a big driving force to him signing with the Blackhawks was to play for coach Richardson again. The fuzzy feeling is mutual between them as Richardson noted that Domi’s speed and vision would benefit the Hawks while elaborating, “Max is an energetic guy,” he said. “He’ll feed off the exciting electricity of the crowd here in Chicago… He lives for that. He’s not afraid of having any kind of spotlight or expectations, because he has grown up in a pro lifestyle with his dad playing. That’s going to help him come to a market like this and do really well” (from ‘Blackhawks’ Max Domi eager for big role, reunion with coach Luke Richardson,’ Chicago Sun-Times, 07/29/2022).
I reached out to our Canadiens’ writer, Melissa Boyd, to get her take on Domi’s game as he had his best years in Montreal, and she had a lot of positives to say.
“He is definitely an offensive creator and carries the puck well and is very good at successful offensive zone entries. He seemed to play best with players who could also create offensively. During his best year in Montreal, he was a dynamic, energetic forward who also played with an edge. A rare mix in the NHL. He can also play both centre and the wing effectively.”
The more details are given from Richardson and Boyd, the more this signing makes sense. With Chicago losing most of their top-six players in Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, and Dominik Kubalik, they need someone who can fill the void by playing alongside Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. He can also play a role on the power play because although he is known for not being strong defensively, he is also known for being a strong playmaker and passer, like Boyd mentioned. I believe he will see a lot of playing time with Kane on the second line as their games could complement each other well. Moreover, he has a career 46.4 percent faceoff percentage, so they can rotate him in the faceoff dot as needed.
However, it’s not to say that his game comes with faults. He has become a polarizing player in the NHL because he can let his emotions take over, which can prove costly to his team. He demonstrated that in April 2021 when he “ragdolled” his now Blackhawks’ teammate Connor Murphy during the Hawks and Blue Jackets matchup. As a result, Domi received 14 penalty minutes for cross-checking and hooking, followed by a game misconduct. The Blue Jackets were winning the game 2-1 in the second period at the time, and the Blackhawks ended up winning the game 4-3. Domi says that he and Murphy are great friends off the ice, dating back to their time with the Coyotes and that they are excited to be reunited. So, it doesn’t look like fans will see them drop the gloves anytime soon!
Domi’s Off-Ice Resilience
It has been said that what a player does off the ice can be more valuable than what they do on the ice. Domi has type 1 diabetes (T1D), having been diagnosed when he was 12 years old. Since then, he has been a fierce advocate for helping others with the same diagnosis. He wrote a book back in 2019 called “No Days Off: My Life with Type 1 Diabetes and Journey to the NHL”, with a portion of the proceeds donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). JDRF is the largest non-profit funding T1D research. He has also taken the time to meet with kids with T1D, as well as hosting Q&A’s on his Instagram to share tips about managing T1D. His advocacy can significantly impact the Chicago community, which speaks to his character and is something fans should look forward to seeing.
Domi also has a service dog named Orion, who helps him detect his blood sugar levels. Something tells me Blackhawks fans will be getting a lot of Orion content this season, and I don’t think there will be many objections!
Related: Max Domi: Balancing Life and Hockey
Overall, Domi plays a Chicago-like game. He plays with heart and competitiveness while also having the scoring touch. He has had trouble returning to the player he was with the Canadiens, but the potential is still there as he and coach Richardson believe the new coaching system will bring out the best in him. It doesn’t look like he will be a Blackhawk long term because of the rebuild, but he has a lot to offer in the meantime. He can provide a veteran presence to help prospects and bring much-needed energy and experience to the team. Also, it can’t be understated how excited Domi is to be on the team, as he said he hopes to be here for a long time and couldn’t be happier. With him so fired up to wear the Blackhawks’ sweater, he could be a breath of fresh air on and off the ice next season.
Domi is ready for October. Are you?
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Just a small town girl with Midwestern charm; combined with a love of dogs, writing, frappuccinos, Chicago-isms, sports, and a whole lot of Blackhawks hockey. Twitter: @brooke_lofo.