Oh, the back and forth we’ve had with Lukas Reichel this season.
Reichel, 19, has been far-and-away the best prospect for Chicago this year, and even made his quick NHL debut earlier this month … HOWEVA, he’s not going to be the one to push the Blackhawks out of the bottom-third of the NHL standings and into the Stanley Cup Playoff chase no matter how much he plays. Thus, for a while now, the idea has been to give Reichel a taste of the NHL, while keep his stint to nine games or fewer to allow his entry-level contract to “slide” another season, making him a restricted free agent in the summer of 2025, rather than 2024. For a team that needs to start thinking as long-term as Chicago, that certainly seems wise.
But not so fast, says Scott Powers in his latest for The Athletic:
The Blackhawks don’t sound as if they’re so hell-bent on making sure Reichel’s entry-level contract slides. The Blackhawks are more concerned about what Reichel could cost them down the road when he’s really in his prime. It may actually be in their interest to get to his second contact sooner because he wouldn’t be as developed and wouldn’t have as much production to use as leverage in negotiations.
Reichel is leading the Rockford IceHogs in goals and points in the AHL this season, his first year playing professionally in North America. He’s not you typical 19-year-old playing in the AHL, either. He’s had two professional seasons playing in Germany with Eisbären Berlin in the DEL before coming to the IceHogs this season. Among active AHL rookies, Reichel is tied for second in goals (12), is sixth in points (24), and is one of seven players averaging a point-per-game or better with at least ten games played.
With the Blackhawks essentially out of the Stanley Cup Playoff chase, the season isn’t really up for “saving.” Later in the year, Chicago’s lineup will likely be populated much more heavily by prospects and young players, Reichel included. When that time comes is anyone’s guess at this point. It would most likely come after the NHL Trade Deadline on March 21, once the dust settles on the potential sell-off of major parts of the Blackhawks’ roster.
Powers also mentions Chicago’s intent to have more patience with their prospects than in previous years, citing the likes of Jakub Galvas and Nicolas Beaudin as players who the Blackhawks will want to let develop longer in the AHL if necessary. If Chicago is truly worried about the future cost for Reichel, his next stint with the Blackhawks could be the long-term stay we thought it might be earlier this year.