Blackhawks Monday Mailbag: Free Agency, The Expansion Draft, and The New Central Division

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Blackhawks Monday Mailbag: Free Agency, The Expansion Draft, and The New Central Division

Chicago Blackhawks

I’m told three is a magic number. And what do you know, this is the third time this offseason we’re digging into the Bleacher Nation Blackhawks Mailbag, answering your questions about the Chicago Blackhawks and anything else going on around the world of Hockey.

Last time out, we discussed the NHL Draft and the prospect (get it?) of Lukas Reichel making the NHL squad out of camp next fall. This week, we are a lot less prospect focused, so let’s get into it!

Remember, you can send in questions on Twitter using the hashtag #BNHawksMailbag or email them to us at Mario.Tirabassi at bleachernation dot com. Send them anytime about the Blackhawks or the IceHogs or the NHL Draft or Free agency and everything in-between this offseason.

Question 1: Do you think the Hawks will go after Danault? How much would he cost? Stan does like his former Hawks. – @chiguy8506 (Twitter)

Stan does love to get former players back, that’s for sure. Philipp Danault, next to Teuvo Teravainen, might be the player that the Blackhawks lost (got rid of) that they probably most wish they didn’t in hindsight. He’s gone on to make a name for himself with the Montreal Canadiens over the past few seasons as one of the best defensive forwards in the league and, in my opinion, was snubbed from being a Selke Trophy nominee this season.

Will they go after him? If he’s available, they should most definitely make a play for him. The Blackhawks need top-end depth at the center position and need someone besides Jonathan Toews and David Kämpf to win faceoffs. We still don’t know if Toews is for sure going to play in 2021-22, and if he’ll be close to the player he was before if he does play. Kirby Dach has a ton of promise and potential to tap into still, but even he might not be the future top-line center of the Blackhawks. Danault would step into the lineup and center the top-line next season, if he were to re-join Chicago.

He’s coming off a $3.083M AAV deal and has done more than enough to get a pay-raise. With the flat-cap in mind, if the Blackhawks could get him at or around $6M per year, they should consider themselves lucky.

Question 2: Do you think that the Blackhawks will sign any free agents in the summer? – @Davidga95352557 (Twitter)

Yes. They should go after players like Dougie Hamilton, Zach Hyman, Philipp Danault, and Joel Armia, but I’m not certain that the Blackhawks organization is the destination it used to be for free agents. Chicago, of course, remains a top city in the league but top-end players need to know that outside of the dollars and cents being right on their contracts, the team needs to be going in the right direction. Chicago’s direction right now is to play the long game and build with young talent and prospects to supplement their stars like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews (again, TBD). Not sure you are going to convince top-end free agents to buy-in to the long game.

Question 3: I read Mark Lazerus’s piece for the expansion draft this week and wondering two questions. 1. Who or what would Bowman expose or maybe even trade? 2. Who do you think the Kraken take from the Blackhawks? – @chiguy8506 (Twitter)

For reference, here is Mark’s post in the question.

The Blackhawks don’t have too many players they may to have to expose that they should feel the need to make deals with Seattle to make sure those players aren’t selected in the expansion draft. From Mark’s list, the realistic players exposed that Seattle might have any interest in boils down to Brett Connolly, Calvin de Haan, David Kämpf, Vinnie Hinostroza, Riley Stillman, Adam Gaudette, and Ryan Carpenter. Besides de Haan, I can’t look at that list and be too sad that Chicago would lose any of them, or that they couldn’t be replaced for the Blackhawks.

So then there is your answer for your second question: If he is exposed, I expect the Kraken to take Calvin de Haan from the Blackhawks.

Question 4: With the Avs, Wild, and Jets coming back next year, where do you see the Blackhawks finishing next season in the Central Division? – Cory (via Email) 

Uff da. The Central Division is going to be a meat-grinder next season.

After jumbling the Divisions for the 2020-21 season, the NHL is returning to more normal setups with the addition of the Seattle Kraken in the Pacific Division and the Arizona Coyotes subsequently moving back to the Central Division. The Blackhawks missed the playoffs this season in the Central by nine points behind the Nashville Predators. While they won’t have to deal with the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, or Tampa Bay Lightning eight times next season, they will have to get reacquainted with the Colorado Avalanche, Winnipeg Jets, and Minnesota Wild. Not to mention the St. Louis Blues as well. They will no longer have the Columbus Blue Jackets or Detroit Red Wings to lean on as games where you can exhale a little bit.

In fact, the Blackhawks likely become what the Blue Jackets and Red Wings were this season in the Central Division. Five teams   that will be in the 2021-22 Central Division made the postseason this year and six of the seven other teams that will be in the Central next season finished ahead of the Blackhawks in the standings this year. We can’t control what will happen this offseason with those seven other teams, but without consistent steps forward from all of the Blackhawks’ young players and a big free agent signing or trade (or two) this summer, Chicago isn’t likely to be much better than this past season.

That’ll do it for this edition of the Monday Mailbag! 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 Mario.Tirabassi at bleachernation dot com.

Author: Mario Tirabassi

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.