The Curious Case of the Blackhawks Rebuild- the Restricted Free Agents

Colorado Avalanche v Chicago Blackhawks
Colorado Avalanche v Chicago Blackhawks / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

As we look at the Chicago Blackhawks roster, a player has to stand out to keep his spot. Prospects are coming, and they will likely get the chance to prove themselves. Last article, I looked at the situation with the unrestricted free agents. This time, I look at the nine players who are restricted free agents.

The good news for the Chicago Blackhawks is that all of their restricted free agents make less than $1,000,000. That means that any qualifying offer can not exceed that $1 million salary. And, for the most part, no player will demand more than $1 million. Those players who have not yet proven themselves will likely prove to be salary cap neutral for another year.

The one exception right now might be Alex Vlasic. He is at the end of a three-year $4,475,000 contract with a base hit of $916,667. Chicago will present him with a qualifying offer to ensure they retain his rights. This one could likely go to arbitration or require a match. Vlasic has visibly been solid on the ice. It hasn't gone unnoticed. He and Connor Murphy have the most ice time during penalty kills. This shows that coach Luke Richardson relies on him for sound defensive principles. Besides Bedard, he has been the standout prospect on the team. His contract won't skyrocket, but it will increase- potentially $2-$3 million range.

The next notable restricted free agent is Lukas Reichel. He is slightly different than Vlasic in that he is still 21 and has no negotiation rights. Based on his performance so far, or lack thereof, the Chicago Blackhawks will issue a will offer 105% of his current $925,000 contract. There will likely not be offers from other teams that will have to be matched. Reichel's contract will slide in just under $1 million. While he has underachieved so far this year, there is still belief in a high ceiling for him. A neutral contract will give him one more year to test the waters.

Two other no-brainers for the Hawks are also defensemen. First is Louis Crevier. He is 22 years old and getting his first consistent NHL minutes this year. He has three assists in his first 10 games and a whopping 14 blocks in his last four games. He is long and uses his stick well on defense. He makes the usual positioning mistakes that many young defensemen do, but he has a great upside.

He has no arbitration rights this year, so he will likely sign the qualifying offer from Chicago. His salary will come in a little under $900,000. Great value for the Hawks.

The next young defenseman is Isaak Phillips. Phillips, like Crevier, is 22 and has no arbitration rights. He has played 17 games for Chicago and has notched five assists. He is an extremely strong skater and aggressive on the ice. Of the young defensemen on the team, he has a lot of offensive upside. Phillips was initially called up on an emergency loan due to injuries, but he may be around for the long haul. He is a wise investment right now.

From there, it gets murky.

Cole Guttman, Mackenzie Entwistle, Joey Anderson, Taylor Raddysh, and Reese Johnson are all restricted free agents, all have arbitration rights. All, also, have contracts between $750,000 and $950,000. The Blackhawks will surely sign a few of these players to add depth, but honestly, all have underachieved, or simply haven't arrived. They are all 24-25 years old, so didn't get the same length of rope given to Lukas Reichel. At this point, I would guess that Cole Guttman and Mackenzie Entwistle have the best chance next year, but there is a lot of hockey left this season, so who knows? I can certainly see Taylor Raddysh and Joey Anderson with other teams next year.

The Chicago Blackhawks definitely have decisions to make in terms of their restricted free agents. Luckily for them, none of these are earth shattering or could likely derail the rebuild. Lock up the defense and let the chips fall where they may.