NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 32 teams from Aug.8-Sept. 8. Today, the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Chicago Blackhawks are in a rebuild, a message made very clear in an offseason that saw them remake their roster, with the exception of veteran forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toewsand defensemen Seth Jones and Connor Murphy.
The Blackhawks signed unrestricted free agent forwards Max Domi, Andreas Athanasiou and Colin Blackwelland goalie Alex Stalock. They acquired goalie Petr Mrazek in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs and hired Luke Richardson as coach.
The additions are one thing, but the subtraction has been at the forefront. The Blackhawks traded forward Alex DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators and forward Kirby Dash to the Montreal Canadiens. They didn’t extend qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik; Strome signed with the Washington Capitals, and Kubalik signed with the Detroit Red Wings. Unrestricted free agent defensemen Calvin de Haan (unsigned) and Erik Gustafsson (Capitals) are gone too.
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It’s all part of a restructuring for the Blackhawks, who have missed the playoffs four of the past five seasons, including last season when they went 28-42-12 to finish second to last in the Central Division, and expect it will be some time before they’re in the postseason again.
“I think it’s really hard to determine right now, to be honest,” general manager Kyle Davidson said, “because going into last season, a lot of the preseason projections probably had us doing a lot better than we did. And I’m assuming going into this season, a lot of people will be doubting us.”
Mrazek said he wasn’t concerned about joining a rebuilding team.
“It’s always difficult to hear that news and to be moved, but I see it as a business, as an opportunity for me to be healthy and play a lot of games. That’s all that matters,” said Mrazek, who was limited to 20 games (18 starts) last season because of a groin injury. He was 12-6-0 with a 3.34 goals-against average and .888 save percentage.
“I will try to do as best I can to support the team and the fans and everything around. The news was difficult; you sign a three-year deal in Toronto. But the No. 1 thing for me is to stay healthy. I ‘m happy to be in Chicago and hopefully see a lot of games.”
Video: Max Domi joins Chicago Blackhawks
Domi had 32 points (nine goals, 23 assists) in 53 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets before being traded to the Carolina Hurricanes. He had seven points (two goals, five assists) for Carolina in 19 regular-season games and six points (three goals, three assists) in 14 Stanley Cup Playoff games. He’s familiar with Richardson, who was hired June 27. Richardson was assistant with the Canadiens when Domi played for them for two seasons (2018-2020).
“Personally, I hope it works out and I’m there for a long, long time,” said Domi, who signed a one-year contract. “But obviously I do understand it’s a business and they’re trying to do certain things. All you can really do is be a pro every single day, right? Try to bring your best to the rink, be the best teammate you can be and hopefully be the best out there.”
As long as Toews and Kane are in the fold, they’ll be relied upon on and off the ice. Each is entering the final season of an eight-year contract he signed July 9, 2014. Kane led the Blackhawks with 92 points (26 goals, 66 assists) in 78 games. He’s gotten used to having different linemates each season — he played mainly with DeBrincat last season — and he’ll be doing that again.
Toews, who had 37 points (12 goals, 25 assists) in 71 games, has expressed concern about the rebuild.
“At the end of the day, we’re talking about a five-plus year process, according to Kyle Davidson, so that part doesn’t sound appealing to me at all,” Toews, the Chicago captain, told The Athletic on July 26.
The Blackhawks are trying to regain their winning ways, having won the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015. Davidson said time will tell what this season brings.
“It’s up to the players that are on the ice to determine where that ends up and the coaching staff to put in place a good game plan and strategy each night, so I think it remains to be seen,” Davidson said. “When the puck drops, we’ll see how things go, but that’s why you play the game. You don’t determine the standings in September or October. We’ll figure that out in April.”