After securing a dynasty in the 2010s, the Chicago Blackhawks now face a tough decision with where they are as a team. One big name on the roster that could expedite a rebuild is their captain Jonathan Toews. So is time to move on and start a new era of Hawks hockey?
The realities of moving on from Toews
For that to happen, Toews would have to be willing to waive his no movement clause. He is still under contract through the 2022-23 season, with an AAV of $10.5 million. For next season, Chicago has $7,353,205 available in cap space, according to CapFriendly.com, with Dylan Strome, Drake Caggiula, Dominik Kubalik, Slater Koekkoek, Corey Crawford and Malcolm Subban all on expiring deals.
There is a rapidly maturing young core with Alex Debrincat, Kirby Dach and aforementioned Kubalik. But, do they each contribute enough skill to match the experience and leadership that Toews has given Chicago for over 13 years.
Blackhawks rumors – Is now the right time?
If Chicago was able to get Toews to alter his NMC, is this the right time to do it. Since their last official playoff appearance in 2016-17, their regular season record has been a roller coaster. Over the past three seasons, they have finished with 76, 84 and 72 points this season, which resulted in being in last or next to last of the Central Division.
For Toews, he has been consistent over the course of his career offensively, defensively and at the face-off dot. This holds true with his performance in the 2019-20 NHL season.
In 70 games this season, Toews was a key part of keeping his team out of the bottom of the league and given a chance to participate in the playoffs. He finished the regular season with 18 goals and 42 assists for 60 points. Despite showing dependability and consistency, his numbers were down from a career-high in goals and points in 2018-19.
When the NHL returned to play with a play-in tournament bracket, the Blackhawks were matched up against Edmonton. In that series that went four games, Toews was a difference maker. With four goals and three assists, he did all the right things to help Chicago move on to the first round.
Unfortunately, the script would flip against the Vegas Golden Knights as Toews was held to just a goal and an assist in the five game series. Vegas won the series 4-1, and Chicago has an extended amount to time to use this offseason to figure out how to reclaim their past glory.
His place in Hockey History?
At 32-years-old, Toews still has a ton of time left in this league. Surely, when his time is up, it would be a great thing to include Toews in the same category of present-era hockey icons like Henrik Lundqvist, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Those guys spent their entire careers with one franchise.
Of course, the Blackhawks franchise has seen one player that spent the entirety of his career in the windy city, and that was Stan Mikita. He provided so much for the Blackhawks organization with 1467 points over 22 seasons, that his #21 is hanging in the rafters of the United Center. When it is all said and done, Toews and teammate Patrick Kane, will very likely have their numbers up there as well.
This decision is better sooner, rather than later
Both sides present a very strong argument for keeping or dealing Toews. From my stance, I believe that he still has a lot of time left in this league and his experience, as a leader of a team that won three Stanley Cups in six years, will be a key selling point to a lot of teams around the NHL. He carries a hefty contract, and there are a ton of guys in the league that can produce more with less burden on the salary cap.
The decision is ultimately on Toews and whether or not he wants to move on from Chicago. If he waives his No Movement Clause, there will undoubtedly be a list of teams ringing General Manager Stan Bowman’s phone.
Chicago has a lot of growth with Calder Trophy finalist, Kubalik and rising star, Dach. The defensive and goaltending units, that were a key reason why they were able to win three Stanley cups in six years, are in deep trouble. Alleviating the 15% of their salary cap that Toews owns, will be able to completely change and upgrade those units that have condemned the Blackhawks to lackluster results.
The decision is up to Toews
If he feels as though he needs a change from Chicago, the city that drafted him, made him part of a one-two punch with aforementioned Kane, and then made him captain; the Blackhawks must jump on it fast.
A change must be made in the windy city, and with a bright future already in place, getting additionally help and rid of a big contract is a win-win. Losing Toews will hurt the locker room and the fan base, but it will be healed by the success to follow soon after. Moving on is the right call, and there will not be a better time or opportunity to get the best return for him than this offseason.