Chicago Blackhawks let talented rookie test the open market

Pius Suter #24, Chicago Blackhawks Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Pius Suter #24, Chicago Blackhawks Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

With the draft now over, every team in the NHL began dealing with the next stage of the off-season, free agency. The Blackhawks had a list of players that needed new contracts or qualifying offers before free agency began. There’s been a “will-they or won’t-they” regarding Chicago’s impending free agents for a while now. Once the deadline passed on Monday, July 26, Chicago raised a few eyebrows with who they actually made offers to.

At the top of the list of surprises for the Chicago Blackhawks was Pius Suter. Like Dominik Kubalik before him, Suter was signed out of Switzerland. Both players had respectable first years in the NHL, but unlike Kubalik, Suter probably won’t be receiving another contract from Chicago.

You can have a look at his stats here:

Suter was bounced all over the lineup, and he adjusted to the NHL pretty quickly-even lining up as the team’s top center from time to time. However, the Blackhawks are poised to let him walk. That’s a bit of a surprise considering that he played well and is only 25-years-old.  Today, quite a few people, including NBC’s Charlie Roumeliotis, were noting that Suter was going to be a free agent.

The issue wasn’t so much that the team gave offers to other players, although there are some that will be unhappy Nikita Zadorov received an offer, rather, it’s that Chicago didn’t really try to bring Suter back. There are possibly some more complex contract negotiations that stopped forward progress on a new deal. Scott Powers of The Athletic tweeted out that Suter is arbitration-eligible, and what that might mean for the Blackhawks.

It’s possible that Suter would have been expensive to re-sign. By contrast, Adam Gaudette is going to be making a return to Chicago on a cheap one-year deal. People may want to point to paying Seth Jones 9.5 million per year as an obstacle, but that deal doesn’t kick in 2022-23. What letting Suter walk also says is that Chicago has started making decisions about their roster.

There are already three other players, all of whom are younger and cheaper than Suter, who could slot in as what will probably be the third-line center. Recently acquired Henrik Borgstrom, Philip Kurashev, and, of course, Dylan Strome.

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Those top two slots at center likely belong to Kirby Dach and Jonathan Toews. The fourth line belongs to David Kampf, Mackenzie Entwhistle, or even Ryan Carpenter. Chicago has a lot of options at center. Maybe even too many, but something had to give.

It appears that the first step was choosing to let Suter see if he can get a better deal with another team. He almost certainly will. The next steps for Chicago will be to try and iron out deals with the players that did receive qualifying offers, but Suter won’t be one of them, and with the potential acquisition of Marc-Andre Fleury, the Blackhawks cap hit makes this all more interesting.