We are counting down the minutes until the opening of NHL Free Agency tomorrow. The Blackhawks have work to be done ahead of the opening of the free market in the league, started with yesterday’s restricted free agent window for qualifying offers coming and going. While a few questions were answered by Chicago’s moves, a few more were created with them.
• In case you missed it, the Blackhawks sent qualifying offers to Brandon Hagel, Nikita Zadorov, and Alexander Nylander.
Today we made qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Brandon Hagel and Alex Nylander, and defenseman Nikita Zadorov.
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) July 26, 2021
• Along with those three receiving qualifying offers, the Blackhawks signed Adam Gaudette to a one-year deal at $997,500.
Thrilled to be back with @NHLBlackhawks !! Big year ahead!!
— Adam Gaudette (@Hockey_Gaud) July 26, 2021
• First, glad to see Gaudette coming back to the Blackhawks on a very reasonable deal. Something tells me he has a big year ahead of him.
• The most glaring omission from the Blackhawks’ restricted free agents list not receiving offers yesterday was Pius Suter. After a breakout rookie season, the former Swiss league MVP would be heading into arbitration with the club if he were to have received a qualifying offer. While that doesn’t allow the Blackhawks to control the money they would be able to offer Suter, I wouldn’t think that he would end up costing much more than $2.5-3M AAV in a short-term deal ala Dominik Kubalík.
• While Suter did not receive an offer, the Blackhawks could still reach a deal with him prior to the opening of free agency tomorrow. The fear for most Blackhawks fans when it comes to Suter would be not getting a deal done and losing him to the open market, where he would likely get plenty of attention.
Still perplexed by the Blackhawks not qualifying Pius Suter, even with arbitration possible.
I reached out to his agent for more context: “The doors are not closed [on the Hawks], but I have already been contacted by several teams. We’ll see what the future brings.” https://t.co/gU0Zm6esLW
— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) July 27, 2021
• To me, it feels like the Blackhawks are trying to penny-pinch on Suter and may be looking to save cap space to use on other areas of the team like defense and/or a veteran goaltender. Chicago sent offers to Nylander and Hagel as well, and signed Gaudette to a new deal. Throw in Lukas Reichel and Henrik Borgström, and it feels like the Blackhawks may be banking that one of those players could step into the role that Suter played for the tam last season (or likely less of a role with the “return” of Jonathan Toews) for a lesser cost.
• The other move of note yesterday was giving a qualifying offer to Nikita Zadorov. It wasn’t a surprise to see, since the Blackhawks would not benefit from letting Zadorov walk for nothing in free agency. Giving him the qualifying offer allows him to remain a restricted free agent under the Blackhawks until a deal is reached or his rights could be traded.
• And given what the Winnipeg Jets just paid for Brenden Dillon, it would be very interesting to see what the Blackhawks could get in a Zadorov trade, if/when the two sides cannot come to an agreement.
Brenden Dillon traded to the Winnipeg Jets for two 2nd round picks.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) July 27, 2021
• Feels like Chicago, who traded next year’s first round and third round draft picks this past weekend during the NHL Entry Draft, would benefit from saving the money they would have to shell-out for Zadorov and from getting some mid-to-early round pick(s) back in a potential trade for the 26-year-old defenseman.
• We will see what transpires over the next hours as we approach the eve of free agency.
As someone whose concept of time depends on the NHL schedule my brain cannot process that August starts in less than a week.
Nope, sorry, tomorrow’s July 1st. I don’t make the rules.
— Steve “Dangle” Glynn (@Steve_Dangle) July 27, 2021
• Anyone else feel like Steve? I do.
• A couple more notes and deadlines to keep in mind today and tomorrow…
Sounds like #Oilers are still discussing the idea of a Koskinen buyout, though probably unlikely.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) July 27, 2021
• The Blackhawks do not currently have plans to use any buy-outs, to my knowledge.
Teams ability to offer own potential UFA an 8 year deal expires at midnight tonight. Starting tomorrow, every UFA signing will be cap at 7 years, even for players signing with the team they played with last season.
— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) July 27, 2021
• No Blackhawks players who remain unsigned would garner an eight-year deal and Seth Jones already got his extension.
Not suggesting it means anything in the moment, but interesting that at noon ET Wednesday, when the NHL calendar officially shifts to 2021-22, Johnny Gaudreau has a modified no-trade clause kicking in, a small 5-team list (5 teams he would go to). More control for the player then
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) July 27, 2021
• Johnny Gaudreau on the move maybe? Something to keep an eye on.
• I mentioned it briefly before, but the Blackhawk may be a sneaky team in free agency to bring in a veteran goaltender to throw into the mix of Kevin Lankinen, Collin Delia, and Malcolm Subban. One major player in the goalie free agent market is Frederik Andersen.
Still time before Wednesday, but pending UFA netminder Frederik Andersen hasn't got an offer yet from the Leafs. Obviously several teams with goalie needs hoping he hits the market.@TSNHockey @TheAthletic
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) July 26, 2021
• Have not heard any connections between Andersen and the Blackhawks, but if they would be in the market for a free agent goaltender to push Lankinen for the starter’s role, it feels like Andersen would be a major target. Other names in the goalie free agent market Chicago could look for, in my eyes, include James Reimer and Laurent Brossoit.
• As for free agent defensemen, Dougie Hamilton is no longer on the Chicago radar. All signs point to Hamilton likely heading to the New Jersey Devils. One player that could end up in Chicago and play in a reasonable middle-pairing role could be Jake McCabe.
2021 SUMMER TARGETS: Seriously, Jake McCabe will be one of the most interesting players at the FA market on Wednesday. He has been one of the best defensive defensemen in the last ~3 years. He’s legit 2nd pair defensive defenseman in our eyes. pic.twitter.com/vNx589xQ9X
— Andy & Rono 📊 (@HockeyStatsCZ) July 25, 2021
• I know, I hear you right now, “Yeah yeah, he’s from Wisconsin and played for the Badgers, we get it Mario!” But McCabe will turn 28-years-old by the start of next season and is coming of a season cut short with an ACL injury and a reasonable contract at a $2.85M AAV. If the Blackhawks save money on Zadorov, I think it would be spent well on getting a player like McCabe.
Josh Ho-Sang is going to get a fresh start this summer as he looks to get back to the NHL. Keep an eye on the Toronto Maple Leafs; likely a two-way contract when completed.
— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) July 27, 2021
• One last name to keep an eye on that would be interesting to see where he goes, even if it is likely not going to be Chicago, is forward Josh Ho-Sang. A former first-round pick by the New York Islanders in 2014, it felt like Ho-Sang never got a fair shake with the Islanders at the NHL level after proving to be a top-performer in the OHL and AHL over the years. In three separate stints with the Islanders, Ho-Sang skated in 53 games with seven goals and 24 points. He opted to play in the SHL in Sweden last season, skating in nine games between Örebro HC and Linköping HC, with two goals and an assist.
• That will do it for today. Enjoy your Tuesday!