We have plenty of time to go back and forth on who should or should not get a new contract with the Chicago Blackhawks this offseason. But since there’s no playoff hockey to get excited about, we can start the debates now.
Heading into this offseason, the Blackhawks have 13 players with expiring contracts and with the developments of the younger players on the roster, some of which need new contracts, the space for returning players will be limited.
Breaking things down into three categories for the 13 players, here’s where I think they land as we make our way into the first weekend of the offseason.
Let Them Walk
• Zack Smith
• Josh Dickinson
• Brandon Pirri
• John Quenneville
• Matt Tomkins
• Anton Lindholm
Can you make a case for any of these players to come back to the organization next season? Because I can’t.
Zack Smith was supposedly ready to return to the team prior to training camp, and then didn’t. His back injury which ended his 2019-20 season did not make the recovery expected and there’s no reason to bring him back. Pirri, Quenneville, Tomkins, and Lindholm were veteran presences for the Rockford IceHogs this season, but with the Taxi Squad likely going away next season, there will be a home for players not on the Blackhawks’ active roster. Goalie depth got deeper this week with the signing of Arvid Söderblom, so Tomkins may be looking for an opportunity elsewhere in the AHL/NHL.
On The Fence
• Nikita Zadorov
• Adam Gaudette
This is where it gets hairy for Chicago with Zadorov and Gaudette. Both players have decent NHL experience and that can be valuable for what will likely be another young team for the Blackhawks next season. But with neither player being a significantly impactful one on either end of the ice, their value is worthy of question. Gaudette is likely going to be very inexpensive compared to Zadorov, who is expecting a raise from his $3.2M cap hit this season.
According to The Athletic’s Scott Powers, the Blackhawks are expecting to re-sign Zadorov and have already begun the negotiating process with him. He has arbitration rights as a restricted free agent, and it will be interesting to see if the two sides reach the arbitration table, how a third-part views his value without the offensive production to back up the dollars.
• Brandon Hagel
• Pius Suter
• David Kämpf
• Vinnie Hinostroza
• Alex Nylander
This is a simple call for me. Hagel and Suter were two of the top rookies for the Blackhawks this season, finishing first and second in scoring among rookies and fourth and fifth on the team as a whole in scoring. Both will likely get raises from the 2021 cap hits, but likely neither will break the bank. They both provide versatility to Chicago’s lineup and look like solid middle-line forwards in the NHL. They are key to the young base layer that the Blackhawks will be looking to build upon heading into next season.
While some may need a bit more convincing on Kämpf, Hinostroza, and Nylander, it’s not much debate around their value to the club and what they can provide to this Blackhawks squad. Nylander is still surviving with the team on his potential as a top-six forward in the NHL, but has yet to show it on a consistent basis. He missed all of the 2021 season but will be ready to go once training camp rolls around. Kämpf is a valuable centerman that kills penalties and wins faceoffs, two things the Blackhawks didn’t do very well last season and would have been much, much worse without him. He doesn’t have offensive pop at the NHL-level, but his price tag doesn’t outweigh his skill-set. Finally, it seems like Chicago would be silly not to bring back Hinostroza on a reasonable contract. After coming back to the team in late-March, Hinostroza tallied 12 points in 17 games and had instant chemistry with nearly every forward he was paired with. On a team that is looking to have their identity be that of a fast, hard-working, energy team, Hinostroza fits the bill.
We are less than a week into the offseason for Chicago, so there’s plenty that can develop over the next few weeks prior to the re-signing window opening up later in the summer. The Blackhawks will have much more cap space to work with this offseason than they have in the past, and many of these upcoming free agents will not have huge price tags coming with them. If Chicago decides not to re-sign Zadorov, they’ll have even more space to work with and possibly address some of their issues defensively or in net through a trade or free agency.