Monday, June 17, 2024

Which Pending RFAs Will The Blackhawks Re-Sign?

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This summer represents a crucial stage in the Blackhawks’ long rebuild. As GM Kyle Davidson puts it, this team has to get better next season, and that starts in the offseason. As Chicago looks to construct a lineup that will do just that, the process began with re-signing big names like Alex Vlasic and Lukas Reichel, each of whom were inked to pretty team-friendly deals. The Blackhawks are currently looking toward the draft at the end of June, where they own the No. 2 and 20 picks and have plenty of decisions on their hands.

Despite the team bringing back its big-name pending restricted free agents, theoretically adding nearly-NHL-ready talent through the draft, and perhaps even eyeing free agents, Chicago’s lineup puzzle is missing a few pieces. After all, the Blackhawks need to dress 20 players every night, so they have a few spots to fill. They’ll at least give some thought to free agents hitting the market soon, but Chicago’s first priority, as it has already emphasized with the most recent contracts, is to consider re-signing their own pending RFAs.

With nine skaters set to hit some sort of free agency, the Blackhawks don’t have room on the roster to sign them all, nor would they necessarily want to at this stage in the rebuild. Still, a few names stand out, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them return to the United Center next season.

Joey Anderson

After being acquired from Toronto a year ago, Anderson found himself on the wrong end of a battle for the last few roster spots during Chicago’s training camp, being sent to Rockford to open the season. After 14 strong games with the IceHogs, he got his chance with the Blackhawks and quickly delivered. As a staple on the third line alongside Jason Dickinson, Anderson led the entire team in plus-minus at +5, scoring 17 points.

Anderson has shown he can excel in a bottom-six role. He won’t be as much of a threat to score as the next wave of young stars like Connor Bedard and Frank Nazar, but he’s a very well-rounded young skater who does a great job of holding down the fort on both ends of the ice. He’s expressed interest in being brought back next year and is one of the few pending RFAs with a legitimate chance to get re-signed.

Taylor Raddysh

Raddysh enjoyed a breakout season with 20 goals in 2022-23, but wasn’t anywhere near that production this past season, picking up just five. An additional strike against Raddysh was that, when fighting to secure his next contract, he was taken out of the lineup in favor of Colin Blackwell when he returned from injury.

Still, Raddysh has plenty to offer the young Blackhawks. He’s morphed into a standout on the penalty-kill unit and seems to play defense in a frenzy. He also ranks among the unluckiest players in the NHL in the goals-below expected department, and it seems as if he’s done everything right, the results just haven’t been there. He isn’t as likely as Anderson to be brought back next season, but would be a solid depth piece for a team needing a few more bodies.

Beyond Anderson and potentially Raddysh, it’s hard to picture Chicago bringing back any of the other pending RFAs. Players like Mackenzie Entwistle and Reese Johnson were unremarkable all year and should be replaced by the team’s top prospects. Meanwhile, solid UFAs like Tyler Johnson and Colin Blackwell offer plenty of value, but their veteran statuses don’t fit within the timeline of the Blackhawks’ plans.

On the defensive side, the list of free agents includes Nikita Zaitsev, Jarred Tinordi and Jaycob Megna. There’s virtually no chance any of these lackluster veterans are brought back for another season, especially with Wyatt Kaiser and Ethan Del Mastro waiting in the wings to take their spots.

The Blackhawks are undoubtedly looking to shed most of their pending free agents this summer, but a few names are likely to rejoin the team. Anderson is the only player truly likely to be brought back, but a player like Raddysh certainly has a case to do so as well.

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