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What do the Chicago Blackhawks do After Three Days of Free Agency?

Chicago Blackhawks Free Agency

The 2022 free agent window has been as active as it could be. Most of the big-name contracts are off the board, with some exceptions. Rosters across the league have been shaken up, torn down, or boosted for a playoff run in the coming season. The Chicago Blackhawks, for the first time in a long time, have completely dismantled their roster. Only three players on their books were on the team in the 2019-20 season. That would be defenceman Connor Murphy, as well as fan favourites, and players you may have heard of, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. With just over $10 million in salary cap space and year one of a rebuild to maneuver, general manager Kyle Davidson has plenty of routes to take this offseason ahead of their October 12 start in Denever. The Chicago Blackhawks next job is dealing with stage two of free agency.

What do the Chicago Blackhawks do Next in Free Agency?

Current RFA Management

The team has two restricted free agents on their books to manage. Swiss forward Philipp Kurashev and Seth Jones brother, Caleb Jones, are both without contracts for the time being. Kyle Davidson has made it clear that he is willing to go the scenic route this rebuild, but where does that put those two players in relation to the team?

Philipp Kurashev

The 22-year-old left-shot winger has had a decent showing with the team in his first two seasons. Despite having mediocre offensive production, Kurashev can really play anywhere in the lineup. Throw him in the top-six and he can skate with the best of them. Plug him into the bottom-six and he can play whatever role the line needs him to fill. He’s young, a versatile skater, and a decent penalty killer as well. Re-signing him shouldn’t be too hard. Anywhere in the $1 million dollar ballpark will be the likely cap hit for him. If for some reason, Kyle Davidson can’t reach an agreement with him, he can always flip his rights for future assets and move on with the rebuild. Caleb Jones, however, will be a bit trickier than Kurashev to manage.

Caleb Jones

The Blackhawks have plenty of defence prospects sitting in their system, but not all of them can play at the NHL level just yet. It would be silly to throw a player like seventh overall pick Kevin Korchinski into the NHL lineup. That would not only hurt the on-ice product but his overall development as well. The same can be said with most of their defence prospects as well. Enter Caleb Jones.

In a limited role with the team last season, Caleb played fine. He skated about 16 minutes of ice time a night through 51 games last season, sporting five goals and 15 total points. Because of his NHL experience, however, Kyle Davidson might be inclined to keep him around for a longer term to help the new guys adjust to the system. He might not be a “veteran” in the traditional sense, he’s only 25. Caleb has over 140 games of NHL experience and is something to learn from when compared to defenders such as Alex Vlasic, Ian Mitchell, and the rest of the team’s bubble-NHL-ready blue liners. Similar to Kurashev he’ll be a cheap contract to sign and shouldn’t be too hard to re-sign.

Other Assets on the Books

A rebuild is only as strong as the future capital the team has in the present. Going into last week’s entry draft the Blackhawks had very few first and second-round picks. They had a weird mix of bubble prospects to complement it, and the direction of the team wasn’t very clear. After trading away young players like Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach, however, things became clearer. Not easier for the front office, but the vision got rolling. That vision, however, leaves players like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews in a peculiar spot. Rumours around the latter have been quiet, but Patrick Kane has been linked all over the league since the trade deadline. For the time being it seems both players are staying put in Chicago and waiting it out. That doesn’t mean either, or both, players won’t be dealt before October 12, but nothing is set just yet.

Davidson’s rebuild also leaves every single player up for grabs. If the draft proved anything, it’s that any player can, and will, be moved to gain high-level future capital. First-round draft picks, high-end prospects to build around, anything to help the net progress of this rebuild. If that means Lukas Reichel gets dealt in a blockbuster deal, so be it. This also leaves room to pick up really bad contracts in exchange for high-level prospects and picks. Do you have an aging veteran contract that needs offloading to make space for someone else? Better call Kyle!

Players on the Open Market

Free agency is still happening, and plenty of players need new teams to call their own ahead of the coming season. For Chicago this could mean one of two things. The first is to bring in older players that still have a lot of name sway to fill the seats. Not that Chicago usually has a hard time filling the United Center for a game, but with the rebuild looming it wouldn’t hurt to find a few of those types of players. All-American hot dog eater Phil Kessel comes to mind to fill that role. The other way Kyle Davidson could approach the rest of the summer could be from a more tactical stand point. There’s plenty of depth players still on the market for teams to grab. These types of players are usually the type to get traded come the trade deadline, and some of them bring a hefty return. Say Chicago signs a player like Evan Rodrigues for cheap, come the deadline he could bring a hefty return in trade from a playoff contending team. That return could be picks, young roster players, or valued prospects the team can build around. Such options could be another route the Chicago Blackhawks go down in free agency.


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