The Stanley Cup Final begins tonight. Which means the NHL teams are now 4-7 games away from the offseason beginning for everyone. We’ve already seen a handful of minor signings from teams and interviews for head coaches taking place around the league for openings (especially in Detroit and Philadelphia).
But all has been officially quiet on the West Side of Chicago.
I boldly submit this is the most important offseason in the history of the Chicago Blackhawks. A new, rookie general manager has been tasked with transitioning from a dynasty team that has been stuck in second gear for seven years into an actual rebuild with two franchise icons — Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews — still on the roster.
The rumor mill has been piping hot with Chicago being at the center of most of the significant chatter, thanks to their 24-year-old 40 goal scoring forward reportedly being on the block. Alex DeBrincat will be, arguably, the top trade chip in the league this summer. And the Blackhawks appear to be set on moving him before he begins the final year of his contract.
There are other roster decisions coming for general manager Kyle Davidson this summer, as well. We’ve outlined their free agent decisions, with the most notable names being RFAs Dylan Strome, Kirby Dach and Dominik Kubalik but Caleb Jones is also a big consideration (because his brother is here long term).
And then there are the other holes on the roster, most significantly in net where the Blackhawks do not have an NHL veteran signed for next year yet.
That’s the player concerns. The fact they are still working their way through the early stages of a coaching search is also a major move Davidson’s office will need to make before the next season begins.
It feels like the trade rumors are starting to move faster than the coaching search, and that’s for good reason. If you’re a candidate to be the Blackhawks’ next head coach, wouldn’t you want to know what the roster is going to look like before signing up for the job?
Of course a roster that doesn’t include DeBrincat, Strome, Kubalik and others isn’t going to be as good as a new coach would like. And it’s going to be up to Davidson to sell his plan for the next 2-5 years to the candidates (and Toews and Kane). There needs to be a clear vision that is well communicated to the next head coach so he isn’t blindsided by a tanking team that’s selling after he takes the job.
With all of that being said, the assets Davidson is able to acquire in the trades that are likely coming this summer will give us a stronger idea of a legitimate timeline for a turnaround. And the next head coach should be in a position to built with the roster he’s given and develop the young players who get an opportunity at the NHL level.
Davidson and his inner circle are working parallel paths with internal free agents, other general managers for trades, external free agent candidates, preparing for a draft and building their list of potential head coaches simultaneously. That’s a lot to get done in a short amount of time; the draft begins July 7, at which point we should think a trade for DeBrincat (and others) could take place. Free agency begins a week later.
So what should the sequence be? We’ll see what Davidson has in store for us this summer, but expect a lot of Blackhawks news coming in the next few weeks.