Blackhawks RFA Decisions, Hjalmarsson Retires, the Next Chicago Roster, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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Blackhawks RFA Decisions, Hjalmarsson Retires, the Next Chicago Roster, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

This has been one of the more bizarre years that I can remember in my Blackhawks fandom. On the ice and off it. One of the reasons it has been interesting has been seeing all the players from the “One Goal” era of the Blackhawks, the modern dynasty of the NHL, retire and/or leave the team. Corey Crawford, Brent Seabrook, Andrew Shaw, Duncan Keith, and now yesterday we learned of Niklas Hjalmarsson’s retirement from the NHL.

•   Hjalmarsson played the majority of his 14-year NHL career with the Blackhawks, helping Chicago win three Stanley Cups over a six-year span from 2010 to 2015.

•   Hjalmarsson was a rare-breed of player, putting the DEFENSE in the word defenseman. He never put up the offensive numbers that many of his counterparts during his career did, but he was one of the best, if not THE best defensive defenseman of his time. Hjalmarsson blocked shots as if he wore goalie pads on the ice and if the Norris Trophy was strictly based on a defenseman’s ability to defend, he would have won at least three of them. A true warrior of the game and a Blackhawks legend.

•   In current Blackhawks news, today is the deadline for Restricted Free Agents to receive their qualifying offers to remain Restricted Free Agents as the league heads towards the opening of Free Agency on Wednesday. The deadline is at 4:00 p.m. CT today…

•   Out of that group, I wouldn’t be surprised to see everyone, except Josh Dickinson, receive an offer today. Although, as Scott Powers reports, it appears the Blackhawks and Pius Suter do not have an offer in place as of this moment.

•   That would be surprising given Suter’s performance as a rookie last season. He played significant time in a top-six forward role last season and excelled in his first NHL season. Comparing his first year to that of fellow former Swiss League MVP Dominik Kubalík, Suter could fetch a short-term deal around or under a $3M AAV cap hit, likely under.

•   The Blackhawks have two things to consider with their in-house free agents: Cap space and roster space. After the trade for Seth Jones, the Blackhawks’s cap flexibility became a bit tighter by adding around $4.5M onto the books for the 2021-22 season, and then extending him at a $9.5M AAV cap hit for the next eight seasons after that. They also have an abundance of top-nine, or middle-six, forwards on their roster that could end up being cheaper than Suter and be able to play the same role in the next few seasons. If Suter gets his qualifying offer, he’ll land in arbitration with the club, which could end up costing the Blackhawks more than they would be willing to pay. We’ll see how it plays out throughout the day.

•   A position also to consider is defense for Chicago. After adding losing Duncan Keith and Adam Boqvist, the Blackhawks brought in Seth and Caleb Jones. They also did not lose either of Calvin de Haan or Nikita Zadorov in the Seattle Expansion Draft. On the latest ’31 Thoughts Podcast’ Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek go over the Blackhawks’ draft day activities, the Seth Jones trade, and the fallout from all of it.

•   And also, in Friedman’s latest for Sportsnet, he lays out that the Blackhawks could potentially still be in the mix for Marc-Andre Fleury, and they could potentially be shopping both of Zadorov and de Haan…

•   Free agency opens on Wednesday, there’s a ton that still needs to play out before then for the Blackhawks to figure out their “plan of attack” once the market opens. One thing we can rule-out, Dougie Hamilton is definitely not in the cards any longer.

•   In prospects news, following the NHL Entry Draft this past weekend, a number of players selected in the 2020 and 2021 draft classes are playing in the World Junior Summer Showcase this week. Blackhawks 2020 second-round pick Drew Commesso had an impressive performance yesterday in net for the USA Blue team, making 21 saves in two periods of play against Sweden.

•   The Blackhawks did not draft a goalie this weekend, leaving Commesso and Dominic Basse as the only two goalies in the Chicago prospect system. Chicago also signed Arvid Söderblom this offseason and re-signed Cale Morris to an AHL contract. The depth of the position is there, but the top-end talent at the NHL level is still full of “maybes” with Kevin Lankinen, Malcolm Subban, and Collin Delia. None of those three are signed beyond the 2021-22 season. It’s going to be interesting to see where Chicago goes over the next year in their goaltending department.

•   Speaking of figuring out who is going to play where, The Athletic’s Scott Powers and Mark Lazerus took a shot at predicting the Blackhawks’ roster for next season, a task I couldn’t wrap my brain around just yet, with free agency still to play out. But hey, have it guys…

•   That will do it for today. Enjoy your Monday!

•   Later today, we will have our Monday Mailbag post. Be sure to get your questions to us using the hashtag #BNHawksMailbag on Twitter. PLENTY to talk about since last Monday!

Author: Mario Tirabassi

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