Earlier this spring, much was made of the apparent interest from young German Olympic standout Dominik Kahun in playing in the NHL, with many teams making offers to bring in the 23-year-old two-way forward. The Chicago Blackhawks took an early lead in the race to ink Kahun and a deal was formalized in late April. Chicago offered Kahun the maximum allowable contract, a two-year entry-level deal worth $925K against the salary cap as well as performance bonuses, but it is fair to assume that other teams extended the same offer. As such, Kahun either saw the Blackhawks as a team with which he felt he could crack the NHL roster or the team promised Kahun a shot at the top level. Either way, the rookie forward is expecting NHL opportunity and Chicago may have no choice but to oblige.
If Kahun isn’t included on Chicago’s roster to begin the season, he is likely to return to his team in the German DEL. The Athletic’s Scott Powers reports that Kahun’s contract carries a European Assignment Clause, a concession made by the team in order to sign him, which would allow Kahun to return to his former club should he not make the Blackhawks out of camp. While often times players have such a clause but opt not to use it, Powers approached Kahun on the issue and got a clear response to the contrary. “I think with my agent it’s clear if I don’t make it to the NHL… then I’ll probably go back to Europe, yeah,” Kahun stated.
This puts the Blackhawks in a tough situation. On one hand, Kahun is a versatile player who can line up at center or on the wing, makes plays at both ends of the ice, and is fresh off the best season of his career. The Blackhawks could use that depth and ability if Kahun plays as advertised, especially at a low cap hit. On the other hand, it is still difficult to evaluate just how well Kahun will adjust to the NHL. This year’s NHL-less Olympics and certainly the DEL are not comparable to this level and while Kahun also had past success in the OHL and at the World Juniors, it has been years since he has played at that level of competition. Powers notes that Kahun has been impressive at the Traverse City rookie tournament, but as a pro in his mid-20’s playing against mostly true rookies, that is expected. How he performs in the preseason against actual NHL competition will likely decide his fate with Chicago. Enough potential exists with Kahun that a strong showing will likely earn him an initial roster spot, whereas the lack of clarity as to his ceiling and fit on the team could make him a camp casualty if he struggles. Kahun’s play this month will be a major story line out of Blackhawks training camp.