David Kampf: The coaching staff loves Kampf, and they trust him in a lot of situations. He has been a 52% Faceoff guy for the last 2 seasons (per Hockey Reference), which is solid. The big question for me is whether there is any room for him with all the Centermen the Hawks have in the organization?
Adam Gaudette: He is dealt to the Hawks, and sees limited action for the remainder of the season. But he is something the Hawks don’t have a lot of on the roster right now: a bigger forward with offensive skill. I believe he could be an attractive target for the Kraken.
Brandon Hagel: Might have been the best story of the Blackhawks ’20-’21 season. I don’t know that there was a single person out there that would have predicted 24 points (9G, 15 A) out of this kid. His effort on every shift was relentless, his hustle contagious, and he earned critical minutes as the season wore on. It was impossible NOT to notice him on the ice, and you can bet the rest of the league noticed too.
Henrik Borgstrom: This one is interesting to me because the player was not getting what he wanted in Florida, so he went to play for Liiga this season after spending most of last year (49 games) in the AHL.
As soon as this season ended, the Hawks signed him to a 2-year deal averaging $1M per year. He’s a big F who was a strong scorer in the NCAA, and again, the Hawks are lacking for size WITH skill, so he may be a part of their long-term plan.
Andrew Shaw: I feel bad for Shaw because he wasn’t able to leave the game under his own terms. By all accounts, he was well-liked by his teammates and kept the fun in the game for a lot of them.
But he is done playing, with 1 year left on his contract at a $3.9M cap charge. The Hawks could do a number of things, such as buy him out or leave him on LTIR, but he won’t factor into the Expansion Draft unless the Hawks swing a side deal to trade Shaw’s contract in exchange for leaving a more desirable player exposed.
Zach Smith: An UFA after this season winds down, Smith is another player bit by the injury bug. He has not been able to get his back healthy, so I don’t believe he will factor into the Expansion Draft. Most likely will retire when his contract expires.
Alex Nylander: Another firecracker. Nylander was hyped as an offensive force, but inconsistency has plagued him at that end of the ice, and his defensive effort has been far from stellar. He is an RFA this offseason, and the biggest question is whether Bowman is ready to move on from him, or if he still feels he needs to salvage something out of the Jokiharju trade? This could be a controversial move to protect Nylander, but coming off a knee injury, he doesn’t rise to the top of the list of potential unprotected players in my opinion.
Brandon Pirri: Journeyman who will be a UFA. I don’t expect the Hawks to protect him, and likely will move on from him after this season.
John Quenneville: will be a Group 6 UFA after this season, which means by age 25, he has not played in 80 NHL games, making him a free agent. I don’t know that we need to go any further than that. I don’t think he will be back with the organization.
Verdict: Kane and Toews MUST be protected, as they carry full NMCs in their contract. That leaves 5 spots to fill. DeBrincat in my mind is a no-brainer, and after that, the water gets muddy. My choices would be Gaudette, Borgstrom, Hagel, and Strome. Not because I believe Strome will be with the organization moving forward, but because I believe they can trade him at the draft and get something in return.
Risk: The Hawks would likely not lose any of the players not protected, as the most attractive players on the entire exposed list would be DeHaan or Stillman. I would call this a mild risk.