Blackhawks

What is Tomas Jurco's future with the Blackhawks?

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AP

What is Tomas Jurco's future with the Blackhawks?

Tomas Jurco's time in the NHL has been a challenging one.

He was taken in the second round (35th overall) of the 2011 draft by the Detroit Red Wings, had a solid rookie campaign in 2013-14 when he put up eight goals and seven assists in 36 games, but has since struggled to take that next step.

Believing a change of scenery could potentially benefit both sides, the Blackhawks acquired Jurco last February for a third-round pick in 2017. So far, only the Red Wings have something to show for it.

Jurco had just one goal and zero assists in 13 games last season, and didn't appear in any of the four playoff games. And with an opportunity to crack the lineup out of training camp in September, Jurco instead started the season in the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs, where he registered 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) in 36 games.

It was good enough to earn him a call-up on Jan. 8 and show whether or not he can carry over that offensive production to the big leagues.

"He looks like he's totally different, in terms of his composure and ability to make plays," Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman said of Jurco's development at the time. "That's why we brought him up here."

However, he was a healthy scratch for five consecutive games following his recall and his confidence surely took a hit, which isn't great for a young player trying to grow his game at the highest level.

Now he's finally getting a chance to show the Blackhawks what he can bring to the table, spending a few games on a line with Patrick Kane and most recently with Artem Anisimov and Anthony Duclair in a top-six role.

Jurco turned in his best game of the season in Sunday's 6-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, scoring his second goal in four games and recording a season-high nine shot attempts (four on goal). There was a defensive lapse on the sixth goal that he was responsible for, but that's part of the learning curve at this point.

He had only one goal in his previous 49 games, dating back to the 2015-16 season. He's trending in the right direction.

But does Jurco have a future in Chicago?

He's 25 years of age, is a pending restricted free agent that carries a $800,000 cap hit and would be in that range again if he were to re-sign.

The question is whether or not the Blackhawks want him back. 

If the Blackhawks decide they want to include him into the fold going forward, they must extend a qualifying offer of at least 105 percent of his last contract. If they choose to go in a different direction, the Blackhawks could simply not make him an offer which would ultimately allow Jurco to sign with whoever he wants as an unrestricted free agent (UFA).

There's also another option in play: The Blackhawks could try to trade his negotiating rights. But that route is only possible if they extend an offer.

This scenario usually occurs when the player rejects the offer and the two sides can't come to terms on a deal. (An example of that would be Brandon Saad's situation in 2015, when the Blackhawks were forced to trade him to Columbus after it was apparent that they wouldn't be able to agree to an extension in time before the offseason deadline). It's unlikely, but still worth noting.

Perhaps the final month will determine Jurco's future with the Blackhawks.

But in a vacuum it's difficult to see a spot for him in the rotation when you consider some of the guys in the organization knocking on the door for a full-time opportunity, most notably John Hayden and Dylan Sikura, the latter of whom Bowman is confident will sign with the Blackhawks once his collegiate career is over. And that also doesn't include the possibility of free-agent signings.

Whether he's in Chicago next season or not, it's still important for Jurco to finish the year strong because his future in the NHL may depend on it. Fortunately for him, his leash has been unhooked and it's up to him to take advantage of it.

Blackhawks hit new low after epic collapse in St. Louis

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USA Today

Blackhawks hit new low after epic collapse in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS — The Blackhawks needed something to feel good about going into a Central Division showdown against the reigning Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues. A solid 60-minute effort would've sufficed, but a win would've trumped all, no matter how they got it. Two points translates into confidence and confidence turns into belief.

Well, both the Blackhawks' confidence and belief are starting to run thin after hitting a new low in Saturday's 4-3 loss.

For the second time in 10 days, the Blackhawks squandered a three-goal lead in the third period by giving up four unanswered goals in a span of 13:16 to a Blues team that, quite frankly, dominated the entire game. The Blues led in shot attempts (65-40), shots on goal (38-22), even-strength scoring chances (34-13) and even-strength high-danger chances (14-2), according to Natural Stat Trick, but couldn't crack a red-hot Corey Crawford until the third period. 

It was an epic collapse for the Blackhawks, who lost their fourth in a row and for the 10th time in 13 games. And there are no words to describe it.

"It shows where we're at," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We're not good enough in those situations. All we can do is continue to talk about and show the team and work together to make it better. That's the only way it gets better. We recognize the problem. We've got to find a way to take a step. I think we have taken steps at times, but it's not consistent enough."

The Blackhawks are a fragile team right now and you could see it in their body language from the opening faceoff, almost as if they're starting the game already down a couple goals. Can you remember the last time they opened a game by dictating the terms?

In dark times like these, your best players have to step up and take control and they did that on Saturday.

Brandon Saad scored twice, Jonathan Toews registered two primary assists, Patrick Kane ended a six-game goal drought and Crawford stopped the first 32 shots he faced before the Blues' third-period onslaught. And yet it still wasn’t enough.

Brent Seabrook and Toews — two members of the Blackhawks’ leadership group — were sitting at their stalls after the game awaiting the media and made no excuses. They accepted responsibility and acknowledged being in this position is unacceptable.

"Being out there in those situations, you got to take pride in it," Seabrook said. "I know I take a lot of pride in it. ... I know I'm on there for two [goals], the second and third one. It's a critical part of the game and I've got to be better in those moments."

"That sucks to blow that one with the lead that we had," Toews said. "But there's situations where we've got to get pucks out and I lost my check a few times."

So what now? Where do the Blackhawks go from here? Will it get worse before it gets better? 

Is the season even salvageable?

"Why not? One game at a time," Toews said. "We had a rough week. ... It's easy to look at the storyline and get really discouraged and come up with the wrong mentality in your mind about what can happen going forward, but it's the wrong way to go about it. We've just got to focus on tomorrow night and build off the things we keep doing well. Each guy has to look at himself and try to find ways to bring more out of himself every night."

The Blackhawks have been searching for answers all season and they’re not getting any closer to finding a solution. They’re getting further away from it.

A drastic change might be necessary, but the frustration stems from the Blackhawks knowing what the problem is on the ice and still not doing anything about it.

"We need to, when the game's on the line, buckle down, stop and start, make the right read,” Colliton said. “I know they know and I know we as a group know what we have to do to have success and it's just a matter of doing it."

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3 Takeaways: Blackhawks lose 4-3 against Blues

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USA Today

3 Takeaways: Blackhawks lose 4-3 against Blues

The Blackhawks lost 4-3 to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday. Here are three takeaways: 

Blackhawks blow three-goal lead 

After Patrick Kane's beautiful stick-side snipe at 4:16 of the third period, the last place Hawks led the defending Stanley Cup champs 3-0 in St. Louis. It was going to be a huge moral victory for Chicago, who had lost three straight games and been outscored 10-3 in their past two. 

Twenty four seconds later, Tyler Bozak scored the first of four unanswered Blues' goals to give St. Louis their first lead of the game, and the final score in regulation, 4-3.

"Sucks to blow that one with the lead that we had, but there's situations where we've got to get pucks out, and I lost my check a few times," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said after the game. "Those guys can make plays when you turn the puck over and you lose your check, so just got to keep going back to the drawing board."

Alex Nylander turned the puck over in Chicago's D zone to Robert Thomas near the high slot, who gave the puck to Bozak for the Blues' first goal of the game which sprung three more. 

“If we benched every player who made a mistake, we wouldn’t have any players," Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said after being asked if he thought about benching Nylander after the mishap.

Shot suppression has to happen

As they've done a lot this season, the Hawks allowed the opposition way too many shots on their net. The Blues were able to pepper Corey Crawford with 38. 

"I thought we had a good start to the third, obviously," Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook said. "Crow was huge for us all night, really kept us in the game the whole game and I think we let him down."

Crawford and Robin Lehner have been leaned on too much this season by a struggling defense who's definitely missed Calvin de Haan (right shoulder) and Duncan Keith (groin) the past few games. Even before the pair's injuries, the netminders facing around 40 shots was happening too frequently. 

"We all take responsibility," Colliton said. "With the coaches, we have to find a way to prepare these guys better so that they can execute those types of reads when the game's on the line. So, that's it."

Colliton also said Keith began skating in Chicago. There's no set timetable for his return, but it should be sooner rather than later now. 

Saad doubles down

Forward Brandon Saad scored his ninth and tenth goals of the season in St. Louis on Saturday. His first goal came 19 seconds into the first period, assisted by Toews.

Saad's second goal of the game came 30 seconds into the third period. Toews used his body to maintain possession on the boards and feed Saad the puck in front of the net for his second helper. 

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.