When then-interim general manager Kyle Davidson was officially handed the job, he made it clear that the Chicago Blackhawks were headed for a rebuild. He then quickly doubled down on those plans by trading away up-and-coming forward Brandon Hagel for a package of first-round picks and pro-ready prospects. Davidson has also discussed trades for fellow young forwards Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome and has been less than committal about re-signing veteran defenseman Calvin de Haan, who would like to return.
The situation has raised many questions about the futures of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. The duo have long been the franchise cornerstones of the Blackhawks and will see their numbers in the rafters of the United Center one day. However, they each have just one season remaining on their current contracts and if they want to compete for yet another Stanley Cup before their careers come to a close, they will likely have to leave Chicago for the first time in their careers. Toews has already been vocal about his disappointment with the direction of the club, moving into a rebuild while there is still some veteran talent on the roster, and has questioned whether he would go elsewhere to end his career. Meanwhile, Kane is still one of the most dangerous offensive players in the NHL, fresh off of a 92-point season. If he does not plan to re-sign with the Blackhawks, the team can charge a king’s ransom to trade him this off-season.
Yet, it seems that Davidson’s rebuild plan may not require that his future Hall of Famers go elsewhere. Speaking to the media today, Davidson responded to a question from the Chicago Sun-Times’ Ben Pope about how Toews and Kane fit into the Blackhawks’ future:
There’s definitely a place for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane moving forward. I don’t think there’s any question about that. What their roles are and how they fit into things, that’s part of the dialogue that we’re having. [We’re] being very honest about with how we see their role and what we need out of them moving forward. They’re fully aware of what those [views] are, and there’s going to be questions and further conversations to really firm that up because it is something that isn’t… solved with one conversation or understood with one conversation.
Having them around is something we’re never going to shy away from because they can show this next wave of players how it’s done. And you never know, maybe they could be part of (this) when we’re back to having success. We don’t know the timeline of any of that yet, but [with their] amount of experience, the understanding of what it takes to be a good professional, what it takes to develop into a high quality professional and then win at the professional level, that experience and understanding is invaluable, so absolutely there is a place for 19 and 88 with the Blackhawks in any form that they wish.
Davidson certainly didn’t parse his words. He understands that the situation may not be ideal for his iconic veterans, but if they are willing to stick it out then he is willing to keep them. If Toews and Kane want to re-sign with the Blackhawks then that is what will happen. It’s now on the players to make it clear in their conversations with the team what their thoughts are on the future. Will they stay on as the living embodiment of what Chicago wants out of the young stars of their rebuild? Or will they ask to be traded and chase another title while they still can? While the two side have plenty of talking to do, we may know sooner rather than later what the future will bring.