It’s Crunch Time for the Blackhawks Impending Free Agents
The Blackhawks have 12 games left on their regular season schedule. While fans are all looking at the lottery odds, there are a lot — A LOT — of players on this roster who are playing for a new contract.
Between Chicago and Rockford, the organization has 10 UFAs and 12 RFAs to consider this summer. The control the organization has with the restricted free agents gives them some additional consideration for a contract or trade this summer, but there are a lot of names who will undoubtedly be gone when the team reports to training camp in September.
Who’s looking for new paper? And what might the Blackhawks do with some of their free agents? Here’s the list of players who are playing to impress in the final few weeks of the 2022-23 regular season.
Blackhawks Unrestricted Free Agents
- Jonathan Toews, C
- Andreas Athanasiou, W
- Jujhar Khaira, C
- Jarred Tinordi, D
- Andreas Englund, D
- Alex Stalock, G
- Anton Khudobin, G**
- Buddy Robinson, F**
- Brett Seney, F**
- Andy Welinski, D**
** – AHL
Thoughts — the biggest name on this list is obviously Toews, who has been considering his future for some time and may opt to retire. If he wants to come back for a full, healthy victory lap, it would be hard for the Blackhawks to say no considering their center depth for next year and the fact that he’s the longest tenured captain in franchise history. Add to that their need to get to the salary floor and it’s possible.
Other than Toews, I think the toughest decision on this list might be Stalock. He’s had injury issues all year, but when he’s been on the ice he’s been terrific — and he’s great in the room. Right now, the Blackhawks only have two goaltenders — Petr Mrazek and Jaxson Stauber — under contract for next year. Having him back might be a nice move. The assumption is that Drew Commesso will sign when BU’s season ends and he’ll be in Rockford next year. There’s a chance the Blackhawks trade for or sign another veteran goaltender, or re-sign RFA Arvid Söderblom to split duties with Mrazek in Chicago (though Stauber may have made a strong enough case to win that job this season).
A case could be made for Athanasiou and Tinordi to come back after one-year deals; the Blackhawks have been thrilled with Tinordi’s play when he’s been healthy after claiming him off waivers from the Rangers. There’s a chance the Blackhawks look to promote a number of defensemen from Rockford (Isaak Phillips, Filip Roos, Alex Vlasic — all of whom play the left side), however. AA has been good but needs to finish more of his opportunities. There might be a chance for him to get a deal with term on a team that’s closer to competing based on a nice bounce-back season in Chicago.
Blackhawks Restricted Free Agents
- Philipp Kurashev, C/W
- Joey Anderson, W
- Anders Bjork, W
- Austin Wagner, ?
- Caleb Jones, D
- Ian Mitchell, D
- Arvid Söderblom, G**
- Alec Regula, D**
- Jakub Galvas, D**
- Cameron Hillis, F**
- Hunter Drew, F**
- Maxim Golod, F**
** – AHL
Thoughts — there are three names on this list that feel like obvious priorities: Kurashev, Caleb Jones and Söderblom. However, there are reasons for pause with all three. Before the season I predicted Kurashev would lead the team in goal scoring because of the opportunity in front of him. He’s scored just nine times in 69 games thus far. I already mentioned possible questions with the depth chart surrounding Söderblom in net. And Caleb Jones might be afforded a better, more lucrative opportunity to play on a better team elsewhere and a trade might be in the cards for him.
To me, the top re-sign candidate on a team-friendly deal (see Sam Lafferty’s two-year, $1.15 million deal) is Anderson. He’s fit that role since he was acquired from Toronto and might have more to give in a full-season role next year. Anderson is young (turns 25 in June), is starting a family, and already has three goals in 12 games with Chicago. I’m also interested to see if the Hawks bring back Bjork to skate on a line with Anderson and either Jason Dickinson or Cole Guttman as a really solid, fast third line. Both could have value on the ice and as trade chips.
Beyond Caleb Jones, I’m also interested to see if the Blackhawks consider a one-year deal with one of Mitchell or Regula to play the right side in the NHL next season. They both have NHL experience, though their play has left some asking for more/better. Add to that Caleb’s ability to play both sides and his brother being the highest-paid player on the roster and he undoubtedly would have the inside track. But the Blackhawks do need to add defensemen to skate on the right side.