Who is next to go for the Chicago Blackhawks as new GM Kyle Davidson continues to make changes?
When the Blackhawks promoted Kyle Davidson as their official General Manager in March, he said they were committed to a rebuild. That wasn’t just lip service.
From the time he was an Interim-GM to the present, Davidson has executed the following moves:
- Fired Coach Jeremy Colliton
- Traded Malcolm Subban (future considerations)
- Traded Alex Nylander for Sam Lafferty
And now for the recent seismic shifts:
- Traded fan-favorite Brandon Hagel and two fourth-round picks (2022, 2024) to Tampa for two first-round picks (2023, 2024) and forwards Boris Katchouk and Taylor Raddysh.
- Traded star-forward Alex Debrincat to Ottawa for the 7th (Kevin Korchinski) and 39th (Paul Ludwinski) overall picks in the 2022 NHL Draft; and a third-round pick in 2024.
- Traded the Hawks’ former third-overall pick in Kirby Dach to Montreal for the 13th (Frank Nazar) and 66th (Gavin Hayes) overall picks in the 2022 NHL Draft.
In addition to trading Debrincat and Dach, the Blackhawks did not offer qualifying offers to restricted free agents Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome. In addition, Henrik Borgstrom was put on waivers.
If you look closely, there is a pattern here. Davidson’s first few moves where no-brainers, undoing the horrific mistakes of the previous regime (Colliton, Nylander, Subban). Then you see a more aggressive approach once Davidson’s “Interim” title is removed – an approach that marks not only a rebuilding strategy, but a shifting of pieces a GM normally would retain for a rebuild.
Debrincat, Dach, and Borgstrom are all very young players. Debrincat is already an established NHL top-six scorer; and although Dach and Borgstrom have struggled, they are even younger and still have size, skill, and upside. Even Strome and Kubalik are not “ancient” players – they are both in their mid-twenties – but to Davidson, they are remnants of a failed rebuild. Davidson’s goal is not just to rebuild; it’s to start completely from scratch.
So what’s next for the Blackhawks?
At this point, it’s not a question of “if” Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are traded, it’s “when.” Both players will be entering the last year of their contracts. They are all that remains of the Cup Era of Blackhawks hockey; an era from which Davidson, and the majority of Blackhawks fans, are ready to move on.
Although his 10.5 million price tag may deter certain teams with cap trouble, Patrick Kane should command plenty of interest. There are already multiple rumors floating around Kane, which include the Colorado Avalanche and New York Rangers. New York makes sense, being close to Kane’s hometown of Buffalo and with a Cup-contending roster which includes his old line-mate in Artemi Panarin.
Unlike Kane, Toews may be harder to move, both in terms of demand and a worthwhile return. His game has diminished over the years, but he is still a solid two-way center who can play special teams; and who is dominant at the dot.
He’d put a Cup-contending team over the top as a third-line center and is still a second-line center on a deep top-six, but will the demand be as high for Toews as it will be at the trade deadline next year? Probably not, but Davidson may not have a choice but to move him this off-season, even if the return is low.
Otherwise, the Hawks could be stuck with an extremely disgruntled franchise Hall-of-Famer for his final season, which wouldn’t be good for either party.
If by some miracle Kane is not moved before the season begins, he most certainly will be by the trade deadline. The only reason for him to stay was to cement his franchise legacy statistically, but that will be all but impossible for him to improve upon next season, particularly without Debrincat.
Is Jonathan Toews future with the Blackhawks?
Toews may stick around – not by choice necessarily, but rather, a lack of interest from Cup-contending teams he’d want to go to; or a lack of return for Davidson.
Only Toews’ no-movement clause will pose a problem in moving him. Eating salary for either player will pose no problem for the Blackhawks, as they will be well below the cap for the next few years, let alone next year. Both Toews and Kane are well aware by now that the organization’s sole focus is a tear down; and there is zero reason why either one of them would want to stick around for that, understandably.
Without Toews and Kane, the Blackhawks’ resurgence – and the three Stanley Cups that followed – would have never happened. Although players like Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Patrick Sharp, Dustin Byfuglien, and Corey Crawford were already in the system, that era truly started with them. Although sad, it’s fitting that Toews and Kane are the last two left. The era truly began with them, and it will end with them. The only question now is when.
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