As the NHL season comes to an end, the Blackhawks are headed into an offseason that’s both uncertain and crucial. It’s clear that the pieces are all there for this rebuild to start swinging back up toward contention. However, no one, not even GM Kyle Davidson, knows what the roster in Chicago will look like come October. The young core group headed by Lukas Reichel, Philipp Kurashev, and whomever they end up with as a top-five pick in this year’s draft obviously isn’t going anywhere. However, there are a few other players on the roster whose futures with the team are less certain, and it wouldn’t be too shocking to see them depart in free agency over the summer.
Jujhar Khaira tops the list as a player that made some nice contributions to the team last season as a solid depth piece. He found himself on the third line most of the time with Boris Katchouk and Joey Anderson and tallied 14 points in 51 games. There’s little doubt that he could continue to make some key plays for the team next season.
However, at 28 years old, he simply doesn’t fit the timeline of the Blackhawks’ rebuild. There will be plenty of other veterans departing soon as long as their contracts are set to expire, and Khaira is one of them. Chicago will want to give those valuable minutes to their young core to help them develop.
On the defensive end, there simply isn’t any room left for Ian Mitchell. Seth Jones is obviously locked into the first line, and Caleb Jones should return pending restricted free agency this summer. After that, Wyatt Kaiser will get plenty of ice time as one of the team’s top prospects, and Connor Murphy has multiple years left on his contract and is a leader on the ice. The third line is where things get tricky. The team has Andreas Englund and Nikita Zaitsev out there, and Jarred Tinordi fits in somewhere. They’ll also bring up Isaak Phillips and Alex Vlasic sooner than later. Couple that with a somewhat poor season and an expiring contract, and Mitchell could be the odd man out on the blue line.
Alex Stalock is perhaps the most certain to leave this offseason. He’s 35 years old and only signed a one-year deal last summer. His story was nothing short of inspiring, as he overcame a series of health-related issues to even get back on the ice, then posted a fantastic season between the pipes. Unfortunately, he’ll be forced to make way for the terrific pipeline of goaltenders for the Blackhawks. Petr Mrazek will likely stick around for the last year of his deal, and he’ll be joined by Arvid Soderblom, who’s expected to come back up to the NHL. After Mrazek leaves, hopefully, Drew Commesso will be able to make the transition, as he’ll head to the Rockford IceHogs to start his time in the pros.
These players aren’t the only ones that could depart, as guys like Jonathan Toews are sure to head elsewhere. The Blackhawks are a team that is clearly looking to get younger while gaining salary cap flexibility. They currently have plenty of room under the cap for next year, but roster turnover is key, and we’ll certainly see a few names depart in free agency in July. Those names will be replaced with a prospect pool that is ranked as one of the best in the entire NHL, and hopefully, the players that get called up from that group will be able to gel with the names that are currently on the roster and aren’t going anywhere.