Chicago Blackhawks General Stan Bowman’s off-season wish list just got bigger.
“According to a source, the Blackhawks might still even address other areas of their team. The Blackhawks like how their forward group is shaping up and believe they have enough there to be competitive. They know there is a need for a quality defenseman or two. But they’re also open to addressing their goaltending depth. According to a league source, the Blackhawks could be in play for Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. With Fleury having just one year left on his contract, the Blackhawks could financially afford his $7 million cap hit if needed.”
Fleury would make sense in a lot of ways for the Blackhawks. As Powers notes, his contract is only for one year, giving Bowman the flexibility to walk away after this season. In addition, Fleury’s mentorship would be invaluable for goalie Kevin Lankinen, who will be entering his second season next year. Fleury would also provide a stability the Blackhawks haven’t had in net since losing longtime stalwart Corey Crawford in 2020.
This rumor seems very plausible considering Bowman’s penchant for acquiring veteran players on term-friendly contracts. Although Fleury would command $7 million dollars, that would only be $1 million more than Crawford commanded per year during his last contract. The only drawbacks would be Fleury’s age (36) and the strong chance Bowman would be unable to afford him beyond next year. And even if Bowman could, would Fleury want to stay in Chicago beyond next year?
In addition to Fleury, the Blackhawks have also been connected to Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones. Jones has one year left on his contract at $5.4 million, but wants out of Columbus and will test free agency if he is not traded before then. At 26 years old and with his status as a top-tier defenseman, there is no doubt he will be one of the most sought-after blue-liners this off-season.
With the recent departure of Duncan Keith, Jones would be the perfect replacement, but he will not come cheap. The Jackets are rumored to be asking for a combination of Dach, Debrincat, Mitchell, and a pick. The other drawback is that Jones will command even more salary and term once his contract expires, as he is in his prime.
Considering his demand, the Blackhawks would need to lock Jones down long-term before risking high-value players like Dach or Debrincat. At the same time, the Hawks will need to act fast, because even though Jones technically has one year left on his contract, Columbus may move him before then, considering his sky-high demand and his public discord with the organization.
If these rumors are true, Bowman’s objective next season is to not only rebuild with young picks/prospects, but to acquire already-bonafide cornerstones (like Jones) to build around. It will be a tough balancing act for Bowman, because in order to acquire players like Jones, he will most likely have to sacrifice his top-talent young players.