Hello and welcome! The first edition of the Chicago Blackhawks offseason mailbag is here for your Memorial Day reading pleasure. First off, a big thank you to those that sent in questions for our first Bleacher Nation Blackhawks mailbag!
Remember, you can send in questions on Twitter using the hashtag #BNHawksMailbag or email them to us at [email protected] Send them anytime about the Blackhawks or the IceHogs or the NHL Draft or Free agency and everything in-between this offseason as the Blackhawks look to get back on track in the 2021-22 season on their was back to the top of the league.
Without any further ado, because you probably have plans to get back to on the Memorial Day weekend, let’s get into your questions.
Question 1: Do the Blackhawks have enough cap space with LTIR used to go after Seth Jones or Phillip Danault, if the latter goes to free agency? – @tree_turty_tree (Twitter)
One or the other? Yes they have enough space, but I’m not certain they will make the move.
The Blackhawks will likely end up having Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw on LTIR for the 2021-22 season, freeing a combined $10.775M in cap space. That also isn’t factoring in the possibility that Jonathan Toews may also not return to the active roster nexts season. As we learned this week from Elliotte Friedman on the latest 31 Thoughts Podcast, the NHL salary cap is likely to stay flat at $81.5M for the next five years, potentially. The Blackhawks will have to navigate the salary cap waters carefully since they are in a spot that is a bit unfamiliar to then in recent years, where they have room and flexibility to work within the cap.
Chicago has 13 players on expiring deals this summer, well 12 since we already know Matt Tomkins is not returning. But not many of those deals figure to be big money, unless they go crazy with a Nikita Zadorov deal. They also have a needs for a top-pair defenseman and a reliable, established center in the NHL. Jones and Danault fit those needs.
— The Hockey News (@TheHockeyNews) May 30, 2021
For Jones, unless the Blackhawks want to roll the dice that he eventually hits free agency next summer after his current deal ends with the Blue Jackets, they’ll have to make a deal for the 26-year-old defenseman, who will turn 27 before the 2021-22 season begins. He’s a top-pair defenseman in the NHL and would be the best on the team immediately if he were to end up in Chicago. But Jones has a 10-team no-trade list and if I was leaving a team like the Blue Jackets to try to get to a contender, I wouldn’t be looking at Chicago.
As for Danault, Blackhawks fans have dreamed of every scenario conceivable to get the 28-year-old centerman back to Chicago after he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens during the 2015-16 season. Since leaving the Blackhawks, he’s turned into one of more underrated two-way centers in the league, having amassed 194 points in 360 NHL games with the Canadiens and having a 53.8% face-off win-percentage in that time. Danault’s three-year, $3.083M AAV deal with the Canadiens expires this summer and he is in line for a raise in free agency. Chicago has a need down the middle and the free agent market for centermen this offseason would be headlined by guys like Danault, Alexander Wennberg, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Stan Bowman loves to go back in time and if there’s one player that would likely be worth trying to give a second go-around with the Blackhawks would be Danault.
Question 2: Should they trade Strome now?! – @Davidga95352557 (Twitter)
Piggy-backing off the need for a reliable, established centerman for the Blackhawks, what to do with Dylan Strome. He has one year left on his current deal at $3M for the 2021-22 season. He was up and down this year and missed time due to injury. He has not been the same Dylan Strome that the Blackhawks acquired back in the 2018-19 season and had immediate chemistry with former OHL teammate Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane.
After putting up 51 points in 58 games in the 2018-19 season, Strome has just 55 points in his last 98 games in Chicago over the past two seasons. Strome has spent parts of the last two seasons bouncing around the lineup, going from center to wing and from the top-line to the fourth-line and anywhere in-between. That’s not the direction the Blackhawks were hoping Strome would be going after acquiring the former third-overall draft pick.
There are two problems with trading Strome now: he is at his lowest value and he would only further deplete an already scarce position of depth for the Blackhawks. If Jonathan Toews does not play the 2021-22 season, Chicago’s centers are Kirby Dach, Pius Suter (needs a new deal), Philipp Kurashev, David Kämpf (needs a new deal), Henrik Borgström, Adam Gaudette (needs a new deal), and Lukas Reichel (pending his ELC). That’s not instilling much confidence for me and while Strome hasn’t been his best self in two seasons, he’s still just 24-years-old and needs to have a full offseason to recover and be ready to go in 2021-22.
If the Blackhawks were going to trade Strome, it either needs to have already happened before last season’s trade deadline or it will need to happen at this upcoming season’s trade deadline. It’s likely we see Strome with the Blackhawks on opening night 2021.
Question 3: So, I’m thinking about getting some of the new kids jerseys but not sure who? Help out a friend! – Joe (via Email)
For the first time in a while, there’s a good number of options to choose from and you wouldn’t be wrong with many of them. You could go with a Dach or Boqvist jersey and feel confident that those guys will be around for a while and will be key players for the Blackhawks for the foreseeable future. Maybe one or both of them become the face of the Blackhawks in a few years? Who knows for sure.
But if you want to go off of the rookies from this past season, for your money, go with Brandon Hagel. He has a style of play that the Blackhawks don’t have an abundance of and need more of. I see Hagel being an Andrew Shaw type of player, but with more upside in the point-production department. He’ll need a new contract this offseason, but I’m 110% confident he will get it and be a building-block for the future of the Blackhawks.
If he’s not, then I’ll offer my sincere apologies, Joe.
That’ll do it for the first edition of the Monday Mailbag! Again, we’ll be doing this all offseason and maybe even into the regular season as we get closer to the start of the 2021-22 year. Be sure to send in questions on Twitter using #BNHawksMailbag or emailing them to [email protected]