There are some names you can be pretty positive you will still see on the roster heading into the 2020-21 season.
The first three that seem pretty for sure are Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad. Saad will be entering the last year of his $6 million AAV contract, while Toews and Kane will have three years remaining on their deals. Unless some crazy blockbuster deal comes along (one that would rock the entire fan base if it involved Toews or Kane), these three seem to be locks.
But after them, there are some question marks, so this is where we need to do a little guesswork.
Personally, I think Nick Schmaltz is going to become a big piece on the Blackhawks’ roster. I think he is set to have a very good 2017-18 season. He will break out of his shell even more and start slotting in as a reliable center for the Blackhawks. His rookie deal ends in two years, but I believe Bowman will be looking to re-sign Schmaltz and groom him into the second-line center role.
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You may already know what’s coming next based on where I have Schmaltz slotted. I think with Schmaltz excelling and moving up, Bowman will look to trade off Artem Anisimov.
Anisimov is signed though 2020-21, but I believe with the emergence of Schmaltz, Anisimov becomes more expendable and his $4.55 million AAV doesn’t fit on the roster anymore.
There were already rumors this past summer that Anisimov was possibly being shipped off, and it didn’t totally surprise me. While he provided some quality offensive numbers on a line with Kane and Artemi Panarin, Anisimov has lousy faceoff numbers.
Unless this changes dramatically this next season, I believe Bowman will be looking to find a cheaper center twho can play on the third line and be a little more successful at the dot. Anisimov is traded before the 2019-20 season for a couple solid prospects and a pick, both useful for the future, but not playing an impact in the 2020-21 scenario we have playing out.
I believe Ryan Hartman, John Hayden and Richard Panik will all receive deals when their current contracts are up and they could all still be around when the 2020-21 season is about to begin, especially with the salary cap continuing to go up and the chance the ’Hawks will have some other rookie contracts on the active roster.
Speaking of those rookies, I think you will see the likes of Alex DeBrincat, Alexandre Fortin and Dylan Sikura all playing a role on the 2020-21 squad. All three of these prospects have given ‘Hawks fans some excitement in junior leagues and at Blackhawks prospect camp, and I believe they all have a future with the team. All three will likely not be using a year of their rookie contracts this coming season, so by 2020-21 they should at least have a year left on their rookie deals.
Other young prospects who could see time come 2020-21 are Matt Iacopelli, Randovan Bondra and Anthony Louis.
The biggest question I have is: Will Maxim Shalunov make the move away from the KHL and Russia and play in the NHL? If he is willing to make the move, he is an incredibly intriguing prospect and would be able to come over in three years after his new contract expires.
It would be a one-year deal, but the Blackhawks have held on to the rights of Shalunov for a reason, and one would think they will do what they can to have him join the team in the summer of 2020. If that happens, you could very easily picture Shalunov, who will be 27 then, slotting in on the top line with Saad and Toews.
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The last big move the ‘Hawks can make is that they trade off Marian Hossa‘s contract when it is clear he is not able to return to the NHL due to his medical condition. A team that needs help hitting the salary cap floor could take on his contract.
With the extra move, I think they’ll make room to sign James van Riemsdyk in the summer of 2018 to be Kane’s linemate and create some extra offense on the top two lines after a 2017-18 season in which the second line misses having Panarin.
While I believe it is pretty unlikely that Bowman doesn’t make a few moves, at least on the bottom end of the roster, it is hard to predict what fourth-line guys he may bring in. So for now, we will work with who we know is in the organization.
If I was to take a stab in the dark at this, I will say the lines will look a little something like this:
Saad – Toews – Shalunov
van Riemsdyk – Schmaltz – Kane
DeBrincat – Sikura – Panik
Fortin – Hayden – Hartman
If Shalunov doesn’t come over to the NHL, slot Panik on the top line, Hartman on the third and Iacopelli in on the fourth line.