The Young Guys
If we are to figure Toews, Kane, Keith, and Seabrook will be returning, we know that about $33.4 million will be taken up on the salary cap next season. With 21 other roster spots needing to be filled after that, we can assume that young players on affordable contracts will be part of the Blackhawks plan again next season.
First off, Alex DeBrincat (who is tied for the team lead in goals) and Nick Schmaltz will certainly be a part of those plans next season. Both players have contracts extending past this season and both have showed great promise to be solid contributors as they continue to grow and improve.
After that, you have Anthony Duclair, Ryan Hartman, Vinnie Hinostroza, and Tomas Jurco as restricted free agents in the forwards group. I believe the team will make an effort to retain Duclair, Hartman, and Hinostroza, barring none of them are asking for a contract north of $1.2-$1.5 million, which none of them should be doing. Jurco could be brought back, but I would think this would be a two-way deal that would allow the ‘Hawks to leave the forward in Rockford if they choose.
One question mark we will find out in the coming weeks is if Dylan Sikura will sign with the ‘Hawks before the season ends. If he does, like he had said all along he would, it gives that team another youth piece with good potential to fill a roster spot for cheap. If he does decide to sign elsewhere, it is just another gap for the ‘Hawks to fill.
As far as defensemen, the ‘Hawks have some work to do. After Keith and Seabrook, the Blackhawks only have three more young defensemen under contract at season’s end: Connor Murphy, Jordan Oesterle, and Carl Dahlstrom. Michal Kempny, Cody Franson, and Jan Rutta are all unrestricted free agents at the end of the year and Erik Gustafsson will be a restrcited free agent.
While none of these names are that exciting on the blue line, the ‘Hawks will likely need to bring one or two of these players back next season in order to complete their blue line and have some depth. My guess would be Kempny and Franson will both be gone this offseason (if not by the trade deadline). Gustafsson will be the easier player to re-sign with the restricted free agent status, so I would guess he would still be with the organization next year.
Finally, he may not continue to be Corey Crawford’s backup, but I would expect Anton Forsberg and his $750,000 contract to remain with the Blackhawks going into next year. Forsberg has certainly struggled this year, but he is affordable and young, both very important factors for the ‘Hawks.
All in all, I would think DeBrincat, Schmaltz, Duclair, Hartman, Hinostroza, Gustafsson, and Forsberg will all be in the mix in 2018-19 and cost the ‘Hawks somewhere around $8-$8.5 million total. Hopefully Sikura signs with the team and we can look at having 8 young players for around $9 million.