Blackhawks

Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews listed on NHL's 100 greatest players list

Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews listed on NHL's 100 greatest players list

LOS ANGELES – Duncan Keith thought someone was messing with him.

The Blackhawks defenseman had a message on his phone following a morning skate. It was from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, and Keith had to call him back.

"I thought it was a joke or something, a prank call," Keith said. "Then I realized there were a couple of other guys who had those calls. We decided to call the number back and, sure enough, it was him congratulating us on this achievement."

That achievement was the NHL 100, a list which Keith, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane as well as seven former Blackhawks were named to on Friday night. The trio, part of three Stanley Cups and each a Conn Smythe winner (Toews in 2010, Kane in 2013 and Keith unanimously in 2015). The former Blackhawks on the list were Stan Mikita, Glenn Hall, Bobby Hull, Max Bentley, Denis Savard, Tony Esposito and Chris Chelios.

The Blackhawks' current players have accomplished quite a lot these past few seasons but making this list was special.

"I don't really know how to describe it," Toews said. "I want to let myself believe it but at the same time there's that part of you who wants to stay humble. The amount of incredible people and special players who have done so much to build this team, they're the ones who make it special for you to get drafted and to realize your dream. I'm midway through my career and all of a sudden I'm being thrown on a stage with some of the all-time greats. It's special."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Current Blackhawks weren't the only ones awed.

"It means a lot. A lot of guys aren't here tonight that could have been here," said Savard, who made sure he got a picture with Kane near the end of the evening. "This is once in a lifetime. I want him next to me because I was his first [NHL] coach. I said, ‘you're going to have that picture now, and you won't forget it in 20, 30 years.'"

The Blackhawks had a healthy representation on the NHL 100 list. For the current players, getting that call from Bettman and the chance to be on that stage together will stick with them for a while.

"Two close friends like Kane and Duncs, it's pretty incredible and I don't think it's anything that will sink in," Toews said. "Winning Stanley Cups is the ultimate thing because you get to share that with your teammates. Whenever you get those individual recognitions – I think if you ask the other two I think they'll say the same thing – the first thing you always think of is always acknowledging a tribute to the teammates who helped you get there in the first place."

What Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan trades mean for future of Blackhawks defense

What Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan trades mean for future of Blackhawks defense

After finishing 30th in goals against average (3.55) and 31st in penalty kill percentage (72.7) this past season, the Blackhawks are clearly making it a priority to patch up their defense this summer. And that's been evident with the acquisitions of defensive-minded defensemen Calvin de Haan and Olli Maatta.

But it raises some interesting questions about the future of the Blackhawks blue line.

With the de Haan and Maatta additions, the Blackhawks now have five defensemen under contract through at least the 2021-22 season: Brent Seabrook ($6.875 million cap hit), Duncan Keith ($5.538 million), de Haan ($4.55 million), Maatta ($4.083 million) and Connor Murphy ($3.85 million). That's $24.8 million tied up to five guys.

The money isn't the primary concern, though. It's the limited amount of roster spots available. The Blackhawks don't have to immediately figure out how it's going to work a year from now and beyond, but it makes you wonder how the cards may eventually be shuffled.

Let's run through the situations:

— Erik Gustafsson had a breakout season and is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. He's obviously not part of the five current players under contract after next season, putting the Blackhawks in a spot where they have to consider trading him or be comfortable with letting him walk for nothing if he isn't re-signed. (They could always trade his negotiating rights after next season and pull off a sign-and-trade as well, if it came to that).

And even if Gustafsson is re-signed, the Blackhawks would then have six players locked up for the 2020-21 season and on, and that's enough to submit a lineup.

— Henri Jokiharju, who was drafted No. 29 overall in 2017, is probably ready to take the next step and become an everyday player. Where does he fit into the long-term plans?

— Adam Boqvist, who was taken No. 8 overall in 2018, likely needs one more year in the OHL before making the jump to the NHL, which would put him on a timeline to become part of the Blackhawks next season. Does he occupy that sixth spot if another one isn't opened by then?

— Nicolas Beaudin, who was drafted No. 27 overall in 2018, is expected to start the upcoming season in Rockford after four years in the QMJHL but might be NHL-ready by the 2020-21 campaign.

— And then there's Ian Mitchell, who's returning to Denver for his junior season and will serve as the team's captain. He's said all along that he intends to sign with the Blackhawks once he's finished with college, but does the organization value him enough to create a spot for him when he's ready?

To make things a little more complicated, the Seattle expansion draft is set to occur in 2021 and the same rules will apply as Vegas in 2017.

The Blackhawks have the option to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender or eight skaters and one goaltender. All players with no-movement clauses at the time of the expansion draft (and who decline to waive them) must be protected; Keith and Seabrook have a NMC. And all first- and second-year pros are exempt; Jokiharju would have to be protected.

As of this moment, the Blackhawks are likely to use the eight-skater option, but they will also have valuable forwards to protect. They're going to lose a good player one way or another, and it's probably going to come from the defensive group. All of this comes into play when weighing roster decisions for next season and beyond.

As stated above, the Blackhawks do not have to make an immediate decision on the future of their blue line corps. They can play out the 2019-20 season with the group as currently constructed. But the decisions the Blackhawks have to face next season could impact how Stan Bowman operates the rest of this summer and throughout the upcoming campaign.

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.

WATCH: Blackhawks draft pick Kirby Dach throws out the first pitch at Wrigley in his first trip to Chicago

WATCH: Blackhawks draft pick Kirby Dach throws out the first pitch at Wrigley in his first trip to Chicago

Kirby Dach was taken by the Blackhawks with the No. 3 overall pick in the draft on Friday.

On Monday, the Blackhawks introduced him to the city of Chicago. Dach took his first trip to Chicago for his introductory press conference.

Later in the day, the Canadian threw out the first pitch at the Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Dach didn't throw a strike, but it wasn't a blooper reel pitch either.

Watch Dach's first pitch in the video above.

 

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.