Reloading might beat rebuilding for the Chicago Blackhawks

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Blackhawks are going nowhere this year so the question is should they rebuild or reload? Maybe they can do both. Hear me out, the Hawks can fix the roster without a huge asset dump. It will certainly be tricky and not easy for new GM Kyle Davidson to do but it is possible.

To be sure, there are some players who most certainly need to be moved if the Hawks are to improve. I like Dominik Kubalik but he’s a restricted free agent. He could bring back some assets in a trade. So, too, could Caleb Jones. I’m less certain about Philipp Kurashev.

Calvin de Haan and Erik Gustafsson are also unrestricted free agents who could bring back a return.

There are other free agents, both restricted and unrestricted, whose names are coming up in rumors. The most obvious one is goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. The veteran is playing at a high level and a Cup contender could take a flyer on him.

The Hawks would get a boatload of assets in return but he has a 10-team no-trade clause and rumor has it he doesn’t want to be away from his family for a Cup run that could last two months.

Personally, I think the aging goalie should be moved. The Hawks need the assets and he’s unlikely to be the starting netminder for Chicago (if he stays) for more than another year or two.

As a fan, I’d prefer he stay, especially since the Hawks haven’t found a long-term solution in the net since Corey Crawford left but the logical part of my brain suggests moving him. Especially considering that I am about to argue for two key pieces to stay. One can’t have it all.

The Chicago Blackhawks could either rebuild or retool their roster before next year.

That brings us to Brandon Hagel and more importantly Dylan Strome. I’ve heard arguments for trading both. Strome is an RFA but I think the Hawks need to build around them.

They should move Kubalik, Fleury, de Haan, Caleb Jones, and any other player who brings a decent return. Build around Hagel, Strome, Connor Murphy, Alex DeBrincat, Kirby Dach, Seth Jones, and a still-impactful Patrick Kane (we’ll discuss Jonathan Toews in a second).

I get that this approach might run into two cold, hard realities. Obviously, guys like Strome could fetch assets and it will be easier to rebuild with more assets. It would either be in the form of prospects or draft picks than to try to hold on to certain guys and build around them.

Second, the limits of the salary cap could make it hard to resign UFAs and RFAs so they might as well trade them for assets.

I know how the business side works and how a team that’s mired in mediocrity the way the Hawks are is usually best served by blowing it all up and rebuilding from the ground up.

But I see potential in this team and if Davidson can perform some creative maneuvering, I can see this team being back in contention if the roster is built around the players I mentioned, if the defense is rebuilt, and a long-term netminder is found (it could be someone like Drew Commesso).

I could, of course, be wrong. It may make more sense for Davidson to just move as many guys as he can – even beloved stars like Kane and Toews – to get as many assets as possible even if it means another three to five years of doldrums before the Hawks are competitive again.

Davidson is in a tough spot because some of previous GM Stan Bowman’s moves didn’t work out and that means he has work to do.

This brings us to Jonathan Toews. Personally, I want to see him and Kane retire as Blackhawks, having spent their entire career here. But Toews has been a shell of himself due to health issues. I’ve seen flashes of the old Toews, though.

That makes me wonder, can the Hawks convince another team that Toews has gas left in the tank and fetch some assets for him? Should they? Or should they allow Toews time to get his game back, assuming he still has some fuel left in the tank? Can he be a mentor to younger players, regardless of his level of play?

We could see a whole new-look Hawks team come Tuesday. My prediction is that Kane and Toews will remain Hawks, at least until the offseason. I suspect Kubalik, de Haan, and several others will wearing different sweaters. For Fleury, Strome, and Hagel, I honestly cannot tell.

Whatever the Hawks do, I hope they manage to find a way to build around their best current players while also fetching assets. It’s unlikely because fast turnarounds like that are difficult but you never know. It beats waiting out a rebuild.

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