- While some have speculated about the possibility of the Blackhawks moving one or both of franchise stalwarts Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews this summer, Scott Powers of The Athletic reports (subscription link) that the veterans aren’t being shopped and if they do wind up going elsewhere, it will be at their request. The idea of discussing extensions with them hasn’t been ruled out either although that isn’t expected to happen this summer as all sides want to see how things go in what’s expected to be a rebuilding year in Chicago. Kane and Toews are each under contract through next season at a $10.5MM cap hit.
The Winnipeg Jets may be waiting on Barry Trotz to make a decision but the Chicago Blackhawks are nearing one of their own. Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff tweets that Luke Richardson is expected to be the next head coach of the Blackhawks, and the two sides are putting the finishing touches on a contract. Scott Powers of The Athletic reported earlier today that Richardson, interim head coach Derek King, and Vancouver Canucks assistant Brad Shaw were the three finalists.
Richardson, who has spent the last four seasons as an assistant with the Montreal Canadiens, has long been looked at as a future NHL bench boss, even going back to his playing days. The 53-year-old former defenseman played more than 1,400 games in the league, and almost immediately transitioned onto an NHL coaching staff with the Ottawa Senators in 2009.
With the Blackhawks not expected to contend next season as they head into a complete rebuild, getting an inexperienced (and therefore inexpensive) bench boss always seemed to be the likely move. Richardson has just a handful of games as an NHL head coach–all coming in the 2021 playoffs when Dominique Ducharme was held out with COVID-19.
He does, however, have four years of experience as a head coach in the AHL, and is as well-respected an assistant as you will find around the league. His departure from the Canadiens will leave a substantial hole to fill, as Montreal tries to climb out of the bottom of the league under new head coach Martin St. Louis.
It is not clear what this would mean for King, who was brought up from the minor leagues to replace Jeremy Colliton early in the season. The Blackhawks went 27-33-10 under the interim boss, in his first taste of NHL head coaching. Powers wrote today that it would surprise him if the Rockford IceHogs didn’t stay with Anders Sorensen as head coach, meaning King could be looking for another role somewhere else.
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Almost four months after affirming Kyle Davidson as the team’s permanent general manager, the Chicago Blackhawks have finalized the rest of their main hockey operations staff moving forward. The organization announced today that Meghan Hunter has been promoted to Assistant General Manager, Hockey Operations. They also said that Mark Eaton remains in his role as Assistant General Manager, Development, Brian Campbell has been named Advisor, Hockey Operations, and Karilyn Pilch has been promoted to Director of Player Personnel.
With her promotion, Hunter becomes the fourth woman in NHL history to serve as an assistant GM. She’s been with the Blackhawks organization for the past two seasons, serving as a scout and their director of hockey administration during that time. The 41-year-old had the highest points-per-game in a single season in University of Wisconsin history during her freshman year, tallying 42 goals, 36 assists, and 78 points in just 35 games. Her record stands against legends of the women’s hockey game such as Brianna Decker, Hilary Knight, and Meghan Duggan.
Eaton, a longtime NHL defenseman, will enter his third season as an assistant GM in Chicago. He’s been with the organization in an off-ice capacity since 2014, when he joined them as a development coach. Campbell has been a development coach with the Blackhawks since 2018 and also spent four years with them on the ice. He was an advisor to the team during their general manager search, ultimately opting to retain Davidson.
Pilch has five years of management experience, including three as the director of hockey operations for the Boston University women’s team and two years as general manager of the PHF/NWHL’s Boston Pride.
As the 2022 event cycle begins to come to a close, aside from the postponed 2022 World Juniors set to take place in August, national team organizations begin to look to the 2023 calendar. Today, Hockey Canada named their rosters for the National Men’s Junior Team summer development camp, as well as the National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team selection camp.
The National Men’s Junior Team roster is comprised of talent from the 2021 NHL Draft, as well as the upcoming 2022 and 2023 NHL Drafts. Among the top NHL-affiliated talent attending the camp is Chicago Blackhawks D Nolan Allan, Columbus Blue Jackets D Corson Ceulemans, Dallas Stars F Wyatt Johnston, Los Angeles Kings D Brandt Clarke, Nashville Predators F Zachary L’Heureux, New Jersey Devils F Chase Stillman, New York Rangers F Brennan Othmann, St. Louis Blues F Zachary Bolduc, and Vegas Golden Knights F Zach Dean. Clarke was notably snubbed from the 2022 World Juniors roster.
In terms of 2022 eligibles to watch at selection camp, the list is as follows: F Luca Del Bel Belluz, F Jagger Firkus, F Nathan Gaucher, F Conor Geekie, F Ryan Greene, F Tucker Robertson, F Matthew Savoie, F Reid Schaefer, D Kevin Korchinski, D Christian Kyrou, D Tristan Luneau, D Denton Mateychuk, D Owen Pickering, G Tyler Brennan, G Chase Coward, and G Thomas Milic. Forwards Nate Danielson and Adam Fantilli also made the camp roster as 2023 eligible. Really, the only 2022 top-ten lock from that list is Savoie, but Geekie, Korchinski, and Mateychuk are also names that could work their way into the first selections.
The U18 roster is made up of 2023 and 2024 eligible players, and it’s highlighted by a trio of 2023 forwards: Zachary Benson, Matthew Wood, and Brayden Yager.
Speaking with Annelin today, Hutton had the following to say on his decision:
Honestly, I’ve been preparing myself for hockey to be over in some aspect for a while… The NHL has evolved into a young man’s league. The average age is now in the early 20s, so I know that this job wouldn’t be a lifelong one for me. Ultimately, I suffered an ankle injury in early 2021, which made the decision a lot easier for me. It restricted a lot of the mobility I needed to be as effective as I once was. This, compiled with a few other things helped me decide on retirement.
The news isn’t surprising in any aspect. Hutton appeared in just three games at the beginning of the season with the Arizona Coyotes, earning a 0-2-0 record and .741 save percentage. He spent the majority of the rest of the season injured before he was dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs ahead of the trade deadline for injury insurance there, but the team loaned him back to the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners. He did spend a few days at Leafs practice, however.
An undrafted free agent, Hutton had a long and arduous path to NHL success. Hutton spent four years developing at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell before signing an entry-level contract with the San Jose Sharks for 2010-11. Hutton was the backup for the AHL affiliate in Worcester that season, posting a .902 save percentage. A restricted free agent, he was left unqualified and settled for an AHL contract with the Rockford IceHogs in 2011-12.
Strong play there got him an NHL contract later in the season and again with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2012-13, when he made his NHL debut at age 27. As an unrestricted free agent in 2013, the Nashville Predators snapped up Hutton in free agency, where he broke into the NHL and never looked back. After stops with the Predators, St. Louis Blues, Buffalo Sabres, and Coyotes, Hutton retires with a career 94-90-27 record in 235 games played (207 starts), .908 save percentage, and 2.76 goals-against average, and 13 shutouts. For an undrafted free agent who wasn’t a full-time NHLer until 28, it’s an improbable and impressive resumé.
- The Minnesota Wild announced today that they will play two games against the Chicago Blackhawks in this year’s Tom Kurvers Prospect Showcase. The games will be on September 17th and 18th in Chicago, and the team says that rosters and additional information will be made available at a later date. The Wild have the third-ranked prospect pool in the NHL, per The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler (subscription link), so those two dates are definitely ones to circle on the calendar for fans of the Wild, Blackhawks, and prospects in general.
The Chicago Blackhawks are committed to a full rebuild, now that Kyle Davidson has taken over as general manager. He has said so on several occasions and proved his intentions by trading 23-year-old forward Brandon Hagel for a haul of assets. Franchise icons like Jonathan Toews have openly wondered about what that means for their future with the organization, as a complete tear-down appears to be on the way.
You might think that a 24-year-old who just scored 41 goals for the second time in his career might be safe, but apparently, you’d be wrong. Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff writes that the question is now “when” Alex DeBrincat will be traded, not “if,” and lists him at the very top of his trade target board. Scott Powers and Shayna Goldman of The Athletic also examine this possibility, with one source telling them they “doubt DeBrincat is with the team through next season” and that the young sniper will either be traded this summer or at the 2023 deadline.
Notably, this is likely about money more than anything else. Because of the way DeBrincat’s current contract is structured, he is owed $9MM in salary this season, despite his cap hit being just $6.4MM. That means he’ll also be due a $9MM qualifying offer at the end of the 2022-23 season in order to retain his rights, and is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2024.
If the Blackhawks wanted to extend him then, it would be at an extremely high price, one that doesn’t really make sense for a rebuilding club. The team isn’t expected to be competitive for a few years at least, which would mean any long-term deal for DeBrincat would be paying top dollar without taking advantage of his best years.
Still, it’s hard to wrap your head around a trade that includes such a young, star player. Make no mistake, DeBrincat is one of the most dangerous and consistent goal scorers in the entire league, even if his production has been overshadowed by the struggles in Chicago. Since he entered the league in 2017, only seven players have scored more than his 160 goals. He only turned 24 in December, meaning he’ll play a good chunk of next season at that age, and he has rarely missed games due to injury, suiting up for all 82 in three of his five years.
This is a player that every single team in the league could use, though the price tag attached to an extension would rule several out. Still, that might be what would intrigue Davidson and the Blackhawks so much, knowing the absolute haul they could bring back for a player like DeBrincat.
Now, with openings all over the league, Richardson’s name has emerged again. Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff reports that the Chicago Blackhawks have asked permission to interview Richardson for their head coaching vacancy, and Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports confirms that he is a candidate. Chicago has also requested permission to interview Vancouver Canucks assistant Brad Shaw.
The Chicago Blackhawks have been clear about the direction of their franchise under GM Kyle Davidson, both through words and actions. Davidson himself has not been shy about using the term “rebuild” to describe the state of the organization, and it became completely clear that the team was in fact rebuilding when they traded Brandon Hagel, a young, cheap, productive player to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a package of picks and young players.
Hagel, who doesn’t turn 24 until late August, is the sort of player most tend to believe that a rebuilding club should be building around, rather than trading. But by trading him, it became obvious that the Blackhawks were taking an extremely long-term approach to maximizing their eventual window of contention. The team’s front office seems to be operating with the intention of stockpiling as many draft picks and high-upside young players as possible, and they enter the offseason with a clean slate of possibilities to help them further that goal.
According to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, there could be even more Hagel-type trades this summer. Friedman states that Davidson and the Blackhawks are “testing the value” of any and all of their players “other than Seth Jones, Patrick Kane, and Jonathan Toews,” the three players on the team with full no-move clauses. Per his report, the Blackhawks will listen to offers for any player that other teams want to inquire about, and the possibility of making a trade comes down to whether another team can “make an offer that makes [the Blackhawks] want to seriously think about it.”
While it remains to be seen if the Blackhawks’ testing the trade market for most of their players actually ends up materializing in any trades, it’s clear from this report that the Blackhawks will continue to fully embrace the rebuild without any major reservation. Notable names including star winger Alex DeBrincat, former third overall pick Kirby Dach, and reliable defenseman Connor Murphy were not mentioned along with Toews, Kane, and Jones as being off the table, highlighting just how deep the team’s apparent commitment to a rebuild could be.
For contending teams, having such high-quality names available for trade is a unique opportunity. For any team willing to pay the significant asset cost it will likely take to acquire any of these names, they could get a player in return that they would not typically have the chance to acquire. Teams like the Ottawa Senators and New Jersey Devils, owners of the seventh and second picks, respectively, at next month’s entry draft have flirted with the possibility of dealing their number-one picks for a difference-making star player, so could they be in hot pursuit of a player like DeBrincat, who scored 41 goals and is only 24 years old? Moreover, are the Blackhawks more motivated to add one of those picks due to the fact that their 2022 first-rounder belongs to the Blue Jackets as part of last summer’s Jones trade?
Those are all questions that could be answered by the Blackhawks this summer. It’s possible that the Blackhawks may not ultimately receive the”Hagel-like” offers on their players that would lead them to finalizing a deal, but it’s also possible that they might receive transformational offers with the potential to considerably speed up their rebuilding process. While we don’t at this moment know what will end up happening with the Blackhawks and their crop of on-the-market veteran players, we do know that the status of the team and those players will be one of the top storylines to follow this summer.
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It wasn’t a particularly good season for Blackhawks center Kirby Dach as he had just 26 points in 70 games, hardly what they were expecting from the third-overall pick in 2019 in his third NHL season. However, as Scott Powers of The Athletic points out (subscription link), Chicago will at least benefit from some internal cap flexibility as his next contract will check in lower than the $5MM or so they were believed to be internally estimating. Now, the 21-year-old is a prime candidate for a two-year bridge deal, one that will allow both sides more time to see if Dach can live up to his potential. While his draft status will boost the price tag a little bit, that contract should be closer to the $3MM range, giving GM Kyle Davidson a bit more wiggle room this summer than he was anticipating at this time a year ago.
- Still with Chicago, the Blackhawks could look to move a pair of youngsters in forward Henrik Borgstrom and defenseman Nicolas Beaudin, suggests Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun-Times. Borgstrom underachieved in his first season back in the NHL, notching just seven points in 52 games while being a frequent scratch which will limit his value to a strict change of scenery swap for another underachiever. Beaudin, however, is a bit more notable as it wasn’t long ago that he was viewed as a piece of Chicago’s future back end. But he struggled considerably with AHL Rockford this season, notching just 16 points in 66 games (hardly ideal for someone that was an offensive blueliner in the QMJHL) while being scratched for all but one of their playoff games. Both players have one year left on their contracts with Borgstrom making $1MM on a one-way deal and Beaudin $863K on his entry-level pact.