That’s it! Stan Bowman and the Blackhawks are waving the white flag. After several disappointing seasons, it’s time to say the word on everyone’s mind – rebuild. Fortunately for Chicago, now might be the best time ever.
It’s hard to see Corey Crawford’s days with the Chicago Blackhawks have come to an end. The news that broke this afternoon was surprising but predictable. Crawford is 35-years-old, and he’s not going to get any better. Regardless, it’s going to be hard to see him play for another team.
The departure of Chicago’s longtime netminder is a signal that significant changes are afoot, especially because replacing him are goalies with little or no NHL experience. NBC reported that Bowman wants to hand the reins over to Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen.
Malcolm Subban might be in the picture as well, but at the time this article was written, since he wasn’t extended a qualifying offer it’s not clear if he’ll actually be with the team.
With no real starter in net and Bowman clearly stating he wanted to give the goalies currently in the system a chance, the rebuild is on. It hasn’t said been outright, but this is what’s happening. There’s no other reason to stock a team so full of young, but inexperienced talent while deliberately turning away from capable veterans. This has probably been due for a season or two though.
Jay Zawaski at the Score said just as much on Twitter:
Also, this isn’t just a question of whether or not the depth of talent is still present on the team. It’s not, let’s be clear about that. Years of winning have left the cupboard bare, so to speak, but rebuilding right now is a business decision as much as it’s a hockey decision.
Every team in the league is probably writing off losses on this season’s balance sheet, and likely preparing to do the same for next year’s as well. If you were ever going to roll out a mediocre team, now is the time to do it. Chicago is almost certainly planning on losing money, regardless of the quality of the product on the ice.
The gift of the current state of things is that Chicago isn’t going to have to worry about declining ticket sales because fans won’t be allowed into the United Center. Whatever revenue the team is about to lose has nothing to do with people showing up at the games. The team would be losing money anyway because of the pandemic. Does it really matter who is on the roster if no one can come and watch the games?
What’s more, the cap is flat this season, and for the next few seasons. That means the organization can plan around spending under the cap, and focus entirely on developing prospects. This situation has the appearance of financial planning as much as it revolves around the development of younger players.
Lose as little money as possible while trying to improve the roster. The team is going to be as bad as is necessary through several years of the pandemic cap and then re-emerge a completely different animal.
According to CapFriendly, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith all become free agents in 2023-2024, if they’re still with the team. At that point, they will all be in their mid- the too late ’30s, even ’40s, and probably about ready to call it a career. However, when their contracts expire is also when the cap should, emphasis on should, start being based on league revenues again.
Hopefully, around this time the group of players expected to become the new core should be just starting to come into their own. Dach, Boqvist, Mitchell, DeBrincat, and maybe even Commesso in net as a back-up, depending on how he develops over the next few years.
There is also the fact that the Blackhawks are potentially going to have a lot of dead cap space this upcoming season. Its entirely possible that Brent Seabrook, Zack Smith, and Andrew Shaw all start the season on injured reserve. There were no buyouts, and this was confirmed by Slavko Bekovic of NBC.
The dead cap space isn’t great, but it gives Chicago the chance to play a lot of younger players without stressing the salary cap minimum. Yes, Chicago might be one of those teams now. It’s not an accident that the team was the youngest in the playoffs.
The whole point was to gain experience and the chance to give the young players as much of it as possible. By that reasoning, the rebuild mentality was possibly already implemented months ago. For better or worse, it’s going to be more of the same next season.
The sun is setting on an era, but rising on a new one. It might be a bit hard at times to watch the team this year, but it’s going to be fun to see who steps up among the team’s pool of prospects. By the time the players drafted this year join the team, everything will hopefully be trending upwards for Chicago.