The Blackhawks roster is in a state of transition right now. You have older players coming to the end of long-term deals, as well as several players on Entry-Level Contracts (ELCs), and a sprinkling of players in their prime on short-term contracts. While every team has this dynamic to some degree, it creates questions for a team like the ‘Hawks, who have missed the playoffs for several years in a row.
So what do you do? Blow up the roster, trade multiple players, and load up on young prospects, draft picks, and cap space? Do you stay the course, and transition the roster over the next several years, and plan to compete for playoff spots in 2023-2024? Or do you move prospects and young players for one more run at the title with your core group of Kane, Toews, Keith, and DeBrincat?
In my opinion, the ‘Hawks have the right idea with what they are doing right now. Youth must be served, and they need to replenish the pipeline after trading away so much talent to try and stay in the Stanley Cup hunt for the last 6 seasons. But that’s not to say they can’t find ways to improve in the short term.
Since I do not believe the Blackhawks are playoff contenders for the 2021-2022 season, my plan would be to identify players who do not fit my long-term vision for the roster (think guys like Zadorov, Nylander, Carpenter, and Connolly) and trade them for any draft assets I can get, and play more young players this season to more accurately assess where the talent level is in the organization.
This gives you hope for the future, but also an exciting team to watch, as you will want to see the young players like Brandon Hagel build on an exciting debut season, plus the continued development of players like Kirby Dach and Adam Boqvist, and see the team establish an identity for the future.