The Chicago Blackhawks have been a pleasant surprise this season as they sit in fourth place in the Central Division. Impressively, they are just three points out of first, and are doing it without their captain Jonathan Toews.
Not bad for a team coming into the season with upset stars being notified of a rebuild through a letter.
Blackhawks stars upset with letting Crawford and others walk
In an article earlier this season in The Athletic, Mark Lazerus wrote that a source close to the core Hawks were pissed with management about letting Corey Crawford walk and other moves.
The captain of the team, Jonathan Toews spoke out about the team letting go of Crawford. “It’s sad. It’s really disappointing. [Crawford] has given so much to this team,” Toews told Lazerus. “I feel he was ready to bring more in the next few years and still be a big part of this group. He had that mindset that he could help this team go deep in the playoffs again, and there’s no doubt that he could.”
To further upset Toews and players like Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook, the Hawks traded Brandon Saad and let Drake Caggiula and Slater Koekkoek walk. This isn’t what they signed up for.
Then in October, the Blackhawks released a letter indicating exactly what Toews and others expected.
We’d like to address that direction and share why we’re hopeful for the future of Blackhawks hockey. We’re committed to developing young players and rebuilding our roster. We want more than another window to win; we want to reach the summit again, and stay there — an effort that will require a stockpile of emerging talent to complement our top players. The influx of youth and their progression will provide roster flexibility and depth throughout our lineup.
The moves seem to be working, what’s next
Next season, the Blackhawks will have approximately well over $14 million in cap space to play with to improve. A look at their needs and a defenseman of Dougie Hamilton’s ilk clearly stands out. The 27 year-old rearguard has 14 points in 22 games this season.
The situation with Hamilton and the Hurricanes is leaning towards the two sides coming together on a new deal. However, there is a risk that the impasse will continue past the trade deadline. Would Carolina be comfortable letting him get to free agency and walking for nothing? Probably not, but I don’t think they would trade him at this deadline either.
What’s more likely is a draft day trade for someone else to get his negotiating rights. That’s where the Blackhawks with all their picks, prospects and cap space could swoop in. Depending on how things pan out in expansion, they should have no issue to pay him the potential $8 million deal he’s looking for.
One thing is for sure, the Blackhawks were being looked at as a team on the decline before the season. I think a lot of people got that very wrong.