There are still two games left for the Chicago Blackhawks this season — on Sunday and Monday at the United Center against the Dallas Stars. But looking ahead to the future, Chicago is going to be an intriguing team to keep an eye on this offseason given (1) the amount of cap space they’ll have to work with and (2) how many young players they already have in the fold (with more coming along for 2021-22).
• One such prospect is 2020 first-round draft pick Lukas Reichel, who won the German DEL Championship yesterday with Eisbären Berlin over Wolfsburg.
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) May 8, 2021
• Reichel finished his second professional season playing in Germany with 27 points in 38 games. Finishing the playoffs with five points in nine games on the way to helping Berlin win their eighth DEL Championship in club history.
#Blackhawks prospect Lukas Reichel and Eisbären Berlin defeated Grizzly Wolfsburg 2-1 today to win the #DEL championship series 2-1. The 18-year-old forward scored five points (two goals, three assists) in nine playoff games. #EBB #HawksProspects
— Brandon Cain (@brandonmcain) May 7, 2021
• Reichel has made impressive strides in his progression while playing in Germany and could likely play with the German side in the upcoming World Championships, before signing his entry-level contract with the Blackhawks.
• With all that said, Reichel may be ready to make the jump to the professional ranks in North America next season. Nothing has been made official by the club, but Reichel coming State-side in 2021-22 would be in line with how the Blackhawks handled the development of Teuvo Teravainen, a fellow mid-first round pick who played in the AHL and NHL as a teenager with the organization.
• Not to say Reichel is going to be anything like Teravainen, but that would be nice if he did AND the Blackhawks held onto him longer than they did Teravainen.
• Scott Powers of The Athletic spoke on a number of topics recently, including where the Blackhawks stand with a number of their European prospects heading into the 2021-22 season. Of course when you get Scott talking Blackhawks prospects, the conversation has to involve Max Shalunov. The former 2011 Blackhawks draft pick has never played for the NHL club but things seem like as close as they’ll come to him coming back to North America with an NHL-ready skillset.
• In the piece, Powers talks about exchanging texts with Shalunov about his Blackhawks future, to which Shalunov responds, “About Blackhawks, if we can agree on a contract, it will be cool.”
• Shalunov has had pedestrian numbers in the KHL in the last three seasons after having 40 points in 46 games in 2017-18. But his stock took a huge jump in the Gagarin Cup Playoffs this spring with 12 goals and 18 points in 22 games. If Chicago wants him that bad, they’ll have to fork-over much more than the standard entry-level deal for the 28-year-old Shalunov.
• Another player that Powers mentions is newly acquired forward Henrik Borgström. The Blackhawks hold Borgström’s rights after acquiring them in a trade with the Florida Panthers at the NHL Trade Deadline. Much like Reichel, the speculation is for Borgström to join Chicago for the 2021-22 season if they can get a deal done. But unlike Reichel, the organization has already stated their intentions to get a deal done and bring him to the Blackhawks.
• Borgström didn’t get a deal done with the Panthers and decided to play overseas this season in Finland, playing with HIFK in Liiga. He skated in 30 games and tallied 21 points, including five points in eight playoff games and helping HIFK earn a bronze medal this season. The 23-year-old Borgström has 19 points in 58 NHL games in his career and was the 2018 Hobey Baker Award winner at the University of Denver.
• Speaking of rookies and young European players, Pius Suter has made a pretty decent impression on the Blackhawks in his first NHL season, leading the team in rookie scoring with 13 goals and 24 points in 53 games this season. He’s due a new contract in the summer as a restricted free agent and I would be surprised if the Blackhawks didn’t do all they could to bring him back.
• Suter came into the Blackhawks organization on the same path that Dominik Kubalík did, having been named the Swiss NLA MVP in the season prior to coming to the NHL. But unlike Kubalík, Suter didn’t jump off the page as a star in the league, but as a solid role-player. As such, he won’t likely fetch the same money that Kubalík did.
• In case you missed it from yesterday, Stan Bowman joined the DFO Rundown podcast and had a ton to talk about regarding the future of the Blackhawk and their need for more impact players to go along with their budding young players. Maybe they’ll find one in Reichel or Borgström, maybe they’ll find one with the cap space they have this offseason. Who knows?
• While the Blackhawks have their eyes set on the future, the Hurricanes are living in the present and riding high after clinching the top-seed in the Central Division.
Bunch of J̶e̶r̶k̶s̶ Division Champs
— y – Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) May 8, 2021
• With a 36-10-8 record and 80 points in the standings, the Hurricanes currently sit not only atop the Division, but the NHL as a whole.
y - Clinched Discover Central Division
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) May 8, 2021
• With the points gap between the third-place Florida Panthers and fourth-place Nashville Predators, the Hurricanes clinching the top-seed guarantees a first-round Stanley Cup playoff matchup between the Panthers and cross-state rival Tampa Bay Lightning.
FLA vs TB meet in a playoff series for the first time ever
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) May 8, 2021
• This is going to be a monster series and I can’t wait to watch it with zero rooting interest.
A #StanleyCup Playoffs matchup years in the making.
— x – Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) May 8, 2021
• But unlike a matchup between the Lightning and Panthers, I would have a rooting interest in whoever the Hurricanes end up facing. The Predators currently sit in fourth-place in the Central Division with 60 points, two ahead of the Dallas Stars in fifth-place. Nashville plays Carolina tonight in a game that could represent a preview of the first-round series. But a regulation win by the Hurricanes would put the Stars in a position to sweep the Blackhawks in their final two games of the season and surpass the Predators.
• Selfishly and as petty as I can be, I wouldn’t hate seeing the Blackhawks lose both games to the Stars and helping them sneak into the playoffs instead of Nashville. Sorry not sorry.
• Elsewhere around the league yesterday, Phil “The Thrill” Kessel joined elite company among U.S.-born hockey players with his 900th career NHL point. He only trails Chicago’s Patrick Kane in active U.S.-born points leaders.
Phil Kessel (390-510—900 in 1,121 GP) became the 13th U.S.-born player to reach the 900-point milestone and just the second active skater among that group (Patrick Kane: 404-682—1,086 in 1,027 GP). #NHLStats pic.twitter.com/7xmBR8UxJe
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) May 8, 2021
• A real American Hero.
— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) May 8, 2021
• I don’t know how you can’t root for a guy like Kessel. He’s the kind of guy who will bring the good craft beer AND the good all-beef hot dogs to the cookout.
• While the NHL season comes to a close, so will the league’s broadcast deal with NBC. With that, ESPN and Turner Sports are in a mad dash to scoop talent as they prepare to share the broadcast rights for the NHL for at least the next seven years. It was being reported that ESPN was working to bring Wayne Gretzky on board for their coverage of the league. But now it appears that Turner is now the front-runner to land The Great One, according to Andrew Marchand of the New York Post.
NEWS: ESPN out on Wayne Gretzky, paving way for TNT, The Post has learned.https://t.co/9QqURYgtsj
— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) May 7, 2021
• While ESPN and Turner Sports prepare to host the NHL, the future of NBC Universal seems to be in limbo. According to a report from Barrett Sports Media, the regional networks of NBC (NBC Sports Chicago included) are being considered to be headed down one of two paths: being sold or being moved to NBC streaming service Peacock.
• From the report:
The media giant has already confirmed it is shuttering its national NBC Sports Network at the end of this year. The shutdown is the latest move showing their hesitance around the future of RSNs. The avenue has been a money machine for a long time because of the high fees cable providers agreed to with networks. As more people cut the cord and splice their media purchasing, those fees get harder to justify…A potential buyer other than the teams playing on the networks is Sinclair Broadcast Group. They own the Bally Sports family of networks after signing a licensing deal with the gaming company this year. Sinclair plans on rolling out streaming-only subscriptions for 19 of their networks beginning in 2022.
• Sinclair Broadcast Group is also behind the Chicago Cubs’ Marquee Sports Network, which launched in February 2020. This will certainly be something to keep an eye on as Blackhawks fans as NBC Sports Chicago is the regional home of the Blackhawks, as well as the Bulls and White Sox.
• I swear, if I have to subscribe to ANOTHER streaming service, I’m gonna throw up.
• Anyway, that’s all for today. Enjoy your Saturday!