The Chicago Blackhawks have a busy off-season ahead of them in 2021.
Not only do they need to worry about the expansion draft and the entry draft, but they have to decide who is staying and who is going, while also looking to improve the squad, whether that is another free agent or through a trade. The Blackhawks will have 14 free agents this off-season and they’ll have about $19 million in cap space with Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw on LTIR.
First, we’ll take a look at the unrestricted free agents. Of the 13 free agents only five of them are UFA’s. Zack Smith, John Quenneville, Matt Tomkins and Brandon Pirri make up four of the five and these four are unlikely to be re-signed by the Hawks. With the youth movement, plus the AHL’s new rules regarding veterans, these players have fallen out of place within the organization and will likely look elsewhere for a new contract.
The last UFA, who needs to be re-signed is Vinnie Hinostroza. Hinostroza has been playing very well since being re-acquired by the team a few weeks ago. Since being acquired, Hinostroza has eight points in nine games with the Hawks, after going scoreless in nine games with the Florida Panthers. It seems like he has found his game under Jeremy Colliton’s system. Due to the small sample size of success, a Hinostroza deal should not be difficult to finalize. A 3-year deal anywhere between $2-$2.5 million AAV is what I’m expecting his next contract to look like.
Next up is the restricted free agents. The nine RFA’s are David Kampf, Adam Gaudette, Pius Suter, Brandon Hagel, Nikita Zadorov, Alex Nylander, Anton Lindholm and Josh Dickinson. Of this group, the only players that I do not think will be re-signed are Dickinson, Lindholm and Kampf, as Dickinson and Lindholm were only throw ins, in their respective trades, and Henrik Borgstrom and Gaudette made Kampf expendable.
Gaudette played well in his first game as a Blackhawks registering one assist. Last season with the Vancouver Canucks he amassed 33 points in 59 games. He has the scoring upside to be a great 3rd liner for the Blackhawks and I believe he’ll get a 1-year deal in the $1-$1.25 million AAV. This will be a great prove it deal for Gaudette, which also wouldn’t hurt the Blackhawks at all financially. Next, Suter has amassed 23 points in 48 games so far for the Hawks. Pretty good numbers in his first season in the NHL. He is a versatile player and he should command somewhere between $1.75-$2.25 million on a 1-year, prove it deal.
The last two RFA forwards are Hagel and Nylander. Hagel has been playing really well this season for the Hawks. He has 19 points in 44 games, and has really shined lately, scoring two overtime winning goals for the Blackhawks. Hagel has been a versatile player this season playing up and down the lineup and playing multiple positions, so I think Hagel should get a 2-year bridge contract between $1.5-$2 million AAV. Next, Nylander has been injured all season but last year he put up 26 points in 65 games in his first full NHL season. Due to him not being able to play this season, and his up and down rookie season, he should get a 2-year bridge deal at $950k.
Finally, the defenseman. Zadorov has had an up and down first season with the Hawks, only amassing eight points in 47 games, but is a +1, which is better to evaluate him with since he is a defensive defenseman. The Hawks have a crowded blueline so I could potentially see Zadorov getting traded, but his next deal should be a 3-year deal around $2.75-$3.25 AAV.
It’ll be an interesting off-season for the Blackhawks and I’m intrigued to see what happens with the teams UFA’s and RFA’s. None of these players will break the bank, and with their newfound cap space, they should have no issues getting everyone they want signed.