Offseason moves to show what Blackhawks think of rebuild
CHICAGO — While Kyle Davidson plots the next moves for the Chicago Blackhawks, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are watching. Same for Alex DeBrincat.
The franchise’s biggest stars all want to know how long the team’s already painful rebuild is going to take.
“Like we’ve seen with other teams, things can turn around pretty quickly,” Toews said. “I think if a lot of different guys are given the right environment and the right opportunity and keep taking steps forward, I think things can turn around pretty fast.”
Toews, Kane and DeBrincat each have one year left on their contracts after the Blackhawks finished a miserable 28-42-12 season with a 3-2 overtime loss at Buffalo on Friday night.
How Davidson, who took over as general manager when the team dropped his interim tag on March 1, treats each situation as a major question for the organization heading into the summer, along with how each of the veteran forwards responds to any contract talks.
“I’m open to anything. We’ll see what they’re thinking,” DeBrincat said. “I think they have a lot of things to do probably before me. But I’m open to talking whenever they are, so we’ll see where it goes.”
DeBrincat and Kane served as a pair of bright spots while the team struggled this year. DeBrincat, 24, set career highs with 37 assists and 78 points in his fifth NHL season. Kane, who turns 34 in November, had 26 goals and matched his career best with 66 assists in 78 games.
While Chicago flopped after beginning this season with playoff hopes, Kane said he still thinks there are some “good pieces” on the team. He also mentioned DeBrincat in connection with his future plans.
“It’s like if he’s here and if he’s a big piece, then that makes it easier for me too, right?” Kane said. “Because I’m playing with him every day and he’s such a good player and it makes it fun to be out there with him. So, yeah, we’ll see how it all shakes out though.”
Toews finished with 12 goals and 25 assists in 71 games after missing all of last year with what he described as chronic immune response syndrome. The captain, who turned 34 on Friday, was non-committal when asked Wednesday about his future.
“I’m not going to comment on after next season because I have no idea,” he said. “I think, if anything, these last few years have taught me is just to stay in the moment and not look too far ahead or too far behind.”
BEHIND THE BENCH
The Blackhawks also have a decision to make when it comes to interim coach Derek King. The former NHL forward took over after Jeremy Colliton was fired in November. He directed to the team 27-33-10 record in the last 70 games, drawing praise from Davidson for his work in a difficult situation.
The Blackhawks’ goaltending dropped off after they traded Marc-Andre Fleury to Minnesota in March, and they could upgrade their situation in net this summer. Kevin Lankinen is eligible for free agency after taking a step back in his second season, going 8-15-6 with a 3.50 goals-against average and an .891 save percentage. Collin Delia appeared in just eight games all year.
“We’ll see what happens,” Lankinen said.
Seth Jones had a mixed first season in Chicago, finishing with five goals, a career-best 46 assists and a career-low rating of minus- 37 in 78 games. The defenseman was acquired in a blockbuster trade with Columbus in July, and then signed to a $76 million, eight-year contract extension.
“I had some good moments, I think, in the year, and had some not-so-great moments, I think,” Jones said. “I hit the 50-point mark the other day, but I think my plus-minus has got to be better for the team.”
The team’s relationship with its fans remains an issue after it released a report in October that found the organization mishandled allegations that an assistant coach sexually assaulted a player during the team’s Stanley Cup run in 2010. Two lawsuits related to Kyle Beach’s allegations that he was assaulted by then-video coach Brad Aldrich were resolved in December. Aldrich told investigators the encounter was consensual.