The Chicago Blackhawks’ first season under the rebuild was a pleasant surprise for most people. Everyone was counting them out and while the team fell late in the season, they held their own early on and really made people re-think their predictions.
Even though the Chicago Blackhawks had a lot of good takeaways, this team does need some change heading into next season.
In my opinion, teams have success due to their defense. The Blackhawks allowed 3.29 goals against this season while allowing an average of 34 shots per game. That is way too high, and to have to rely on rookie goaltender Kevin Lankinen so much could have led to his faulty play late in the season. The Blackhawks lack a top-pairing defensive prospect, which they could acquire this off-season, with the likes of Owen Power, Simon, Edvinsson, or Carson Lambos. The Hawks could choose to select goaltender Jesper Wallstedt if they feel Lankinen is not their long-term solution.
The only changes I’d make to their defense is trying to trade Calvin de Haan and Nikita Zadorov. I do like what Zadorov brings but with the acquisition of Riley Stillman and all the youth the Hawks have in their system, he has fallen out of place, especially with his subpar play. With de Haan, he has also fallen out of place due to the Hawks’ younger players. Since the team is not against the cap, they are not forced to trade either player, but if they are both retained, some players will not be happy playing in the AHL.
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On the offensive side, I do not believe much change will happen. If Jonathan Toews is able to return, Alex Nylander’s return, and the acquisition and signing of Henrik Borgstrom, the team is looking to be in a good spot. Also, do not forget about Adam Gaudette and Lukas Reichel, should they both get signed this off-season, could help bring a new dynamic to the team. The two players that I do not think will be on the team next season is Dylan Strome and David Kampf.
Kampf like Zadorov is a restricted free agent but with some of the new players being brought in, it is likely Kampf is on his way out. Dylan Strome has also fallen out of place, as he was a healthy scratch for several games while getting passed up by Kirby Dach and other Hawks centers. Strome struggles on the wing due to his size and skating technique, but he struggles on face-offs so he is in a tricky situation. Strome should be in a top 6 role, but since he’s been passed up, he has been relegated to a checking role, which he is not suited for.
Strome, Zadorov, and de Haan could land some mid or late-round draft picks, but the cap space could be key. If the Hawks move Strome and de Haan the team would have a lot more cap space to work with, which the team could look to bring in more bad contracts with assets. This way they are utilizing their cap space while gaining value for the future. Players like Loui Eriksson, Andrew Ladd, and James Neal could be brought in, in Brett Connolly type deals to help the other team, while gaining something in return.
"The Chicago Blackhawks Defense Needs Some Changes"
Ultimately, aside from Strome, Kampf, Zadorov, and de Haan, I do not think much change will happen. The Hawks need to let their young players play and develop, so while this might be another growing pain type of season, if the Hawks can get more assets at the draft and through trades, the team will be looking good for the future.