The Chicago Blackhawks have lots of decisions to make this summer as general manager Kyle Davidson continues his tear down and rebuild of the struggling organization. One of the biggest–outside of the obvious Jonathan Toews–Patrick Kane question–is what to do with Dylan Strome. The 25-year-old is an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent and has taken off in the last half of the season, setting a new career-high in goals with 21 and playing more than 20 minutes in 17 of his last 21 games.
That doesn’t guarantee he’ll be back, though, as Mark Lazerus of The Athletic writes today. Lazerus notes that team sources are “lukewarm at best” about bringing Strome back, a player that the organization tried to trade for well over a year at one point. Perhaps Strome’s run on the top line will help bring that trade to fruition, though the uncertainty of his arbitration award certainly makes it more complicated.
- Meanwhile, the coach that brought Strome back from the dead this season is also facing an uncertain future. As Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic writes today, it is “no slam dunk” that Derek King returns as head coach of the Blackhawks next season, despite some success since he took over on an interim basis. King was brought up from the Rockford IceHogs and is in his first stint as a coach in the NHL. Davidson told LeBrun that the team will address the coaching situation in the offseason, the same answer many managers gave him when he was looking at all of the expiring deals around the league. While names like Jay Woodcroft and Andrew Brunette seem like obvious extensions, things aren’t so clear in places like Winnipeg and Philadelphia, where success hasn’t followed the midseason changes.
- Auston Matthews is closing in on a return to the Toronto Maple Leafs lineup, after joining the main group for morning skate today. The Maple Leafs will take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in a potential preview of the first round, and would obviously like to have their superstar in the lineup, but he’ll miss a third straight game with an undisclosed injury. Matthews has some history of his own to chase, as he tries to become just the third player since the 2004-05 lockout to score 60 goals. Only Alex Ovechkin (65 in 2007-08) and Steven Stamkos (60 in 2011-12) have accomplished that feat, and the big Toronto center needs just two more to hit the mark.