4 days into free agency and the Blackhawks have been rather quiet since signing Domi, Blackwell and Athanasiou. Everyone knows they aren’t finished signing yet, they can’t be. They need to fill out their bottom 6 and bottom 4 to at least stay competitive and not look like a comedy special for the entirety of the season. With Toews and Kane likely on their way out, it’s time to start finding players to fill these bottom roles as the team enters a full rebuild.
A player that has always caught my eye as being a gritty player that always shines through as the hardest worker on the ice is Zach Aston-Reese, who got traded to the Ducks last year as part of the Rickard Rakell deal, but didn’t re-sign with Anaheim. At 27, Aston-Reese has 230 games of NHL experience with 32 goals and 34 assists for 66 points. His physical play has always been something teams keep their eye on, and when he played with Pittsburgh, he was the main antagonist for Tom Wilson. Aston-Reese makes so much sense for the Blackhawks, as it’s likely they’ll be playing a gritty and physical game where they can grind out a few wins, and tire teams out to pull out those wins, Aston-Reese provides that aspect to help the team win.
I wrote a target article about "ZAR" earlier in the summer, and he remains a free agent. I wanted to bring it up again and talk about it, because he is one of the players I really want to see the Blackhawks get. He is personally, one of my favorite young players in the league, and has always shown that willingness to get better, while playing the role he knows he has to play.
At 6’0, 204 pounds, Aston-Reese’s size is a huge advantage. He still has the speed to keep up with everyone around him, and can create opportunities with his solid work along the boards. His offensive output isn’t fantastic, but you get what you get for a guy that knows his role in the bottom 6. With a 1-2 year contract worth $1-2M AAV, he would be a really fun player to have on the Blackhawks, and he could turn himself into a mainstay for multiple seasons if it’s a good fit.