Another Monday, another bag of mail. Thanks to those who sent in questions on short notice. With a busy weekend, I completely spaced on sending out the call for questions on social media. Contrary to popular belief, I am not perfect. The Chicago Blackhawks have been mentioned in a couple of offseason storylines to keep an eye on this summer, so let’s dive into some of the questions on your mind.
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: Who is the one free agent on the current roster that the Hawks don’t re-sign? – @CourtneyDagger (Twitter)
Chicago has about 13 expected restricted and unrestricted free agents to deal with this offseason. They also are already at 41 of 50 NHL contracts on the books for the 2021-22 season. So either some players are getting traded or a majority of those expected free agents aren’t coming back. Given the players that make up those 13 free agents to be, I’d lean that it’s more likely players are being moved. Plus you’ll have one player taken by Seattle in the Expansion Draft.
One player that I am on the fence about whether or not they will be re-signed by the Blackhawks is Vinnie Hinostroza. I think he played VERY well when he arrived back in Chicago this season and had instant chemistry with guys like Patrick Kane (again) and Brandon Hagel. It had been a while since we’ve seen Hinostroza play at that level of effectiveness in the NHL. But was it the real deal?
He’s an unrestricted free agent coming off a one-year, $1M deal with the Panthers. Were his 12 points in 17 games in 2021 enough to have him expect a raise from that $1M AAV from the Blackhawks? Possibly. With the Blackhawks looking to invest in more of their young talent, I’m not sure how much room they will be able to make for Hinostroza. Chicago has already added players like Lukas Reichel and Henrik Borgström, they will likely want to keep Pius Suter and Adam Gaudette around, and there’s no debate they will be bringing back Brandon Hagel. You also have to think the Blackhawks will bring back Alex Nylander for the 2021-22 season. It may end up being a bittersweet breakup for the Blackhawks and Hinostroza.
Question 2: How serious are the Eichel rumors? What would be his biggest value added to this team? – jobin_theman (Twitter)
The Blackhawks being interested in Jack Eichel doesn’t go much further at this point than Larry Brooks’ initial report over the weekend in the New York Post. Chicago has a lot of needs and having a true No. 1 Center is one of them. Eichel is a true No. 1 Center in the NHL and wants out of Buffalo, so it makes sense that the Blackhawks would have interest.
I wrote today about what it would take to get Eichel to Chicago and the long and short of it is that, for where the Blackhawks are at as a franchise right now, the price is not worth it. His biggest value added would be his goal-scoring and point production and his ability to alleviate minutes from Jonathan Toews, if Toews is with the team next season and beyond. Again, I don’t see it happening, but we’ll keep our eyes and ears open.
Question 3: Why does Stan seem to dislike Dylan Strome so much? – @bhawk_mom (Twitter)
I don’t think it’s so much that Stan Bowman isn’t a fan of Dylan Strome, but that Jeremy Colliton doesn’t know what to do with him if he’s not producing points consistently. Strome has a decent amount of talent to him, as we saw when he first came to the Blackhawks. But since the end of the 2018-19 season, Strome hasn’t lived up to his first impression with the Blackhawks.
To be a top-tier center in the NHL, you have to be good at one or a combination of playing fast, producing points, playing physical, winning face-offs, and killing penalties. Strome is not fast, is not nearly as physical as he should be, doesn’t kill penalties, and is not a good face-off winner. His best attribute is his ability to distribute the puck, but he hasn’t done it consistently enough to solidify himself in the lineup.
He’s still young and had a lot going on in his life this past season with a new baby and injuries, so maybe 2021-22 will be better for the former third-overall pick.
Question 4: What former Blackhawk should I cheer for? – @chiguy8506 (Twitter)
I’ll answer this as a prisoner of the moment, but I can’t root against the possibility of Robin Lehner lifting the Stanley Cup with the Vegas Golden Knights. Also, Mattias Janmark is with Vegas too and he was a great guy from what I’m told and he played his half a season rental player role perfectly for Chicago. Not much else you could have hoped for from him.
I don’t want to see Erik Gustafsson win the Cup, even at the expense of Philipp Danault. I also don’t want the Lightning to win the Cup, so that will knock out Jan Rutta as a possible two-time Cup winner. A close second-place is the New York Islanders with Nick Leddy, but I’m sticking to Janmark and Lehner.
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.