After years of adding veterans to their squad in hopes of fueling a hybrid rebuilding effort to keep the team in contention of a playoff spot, the Chicago Blackhawks have made quite a statement in the last few days, which included opting not to bring back long-time netminder Corey Crawford as well as Saturday’s Brandon Saad trade, suggest that the team intends to start a rebuild. That isn’t sitting well with the team’s core players, especially captain Jonathan Toews, according to The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus (subscription required).
The 32-year-old was a key element to the Blackhawks’ advancement into the round of 16 when the team eliminated the Edmonton Oilers in four games two months ago. He tallied four goals and seven points in that series before Chicago fell to the Vegas Golden Knights in the following round.
“Bottom line is, I want to win,” Toews told The Athletic on Saturday night. “The expectation for the other leaders on this team and myself is to come ready to training camp every year to be a playoff team. We prepare ourselves to win a Cup for our fans. I’ve never been told that we were going through a rebuild. That has never been communicated to me, for that matter. A lot of this comes as a shock because it’s a completely different direction than we expected.”
All four members of the Blackhawks’ remaining core, including Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Toews have made it clear they wanted to stay in Chicago and weren’t going anywhere. Now, just as the team was showing progress that their youth movement, especially from recent play from Dominik Kubalik, Kirby Dach and Adam Boqvist. However, despite an impressive year from the 35-year-old Crawford, the team has decided to allow their young netminders, Malcolm Subban, Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen to battle it out in the net. The team then sent Saad and most of his $6MM contract to the Avalanche for bruising defenseman Nikita Zadorov.
Lazerus writes that the change comes from the removal of team president and CEO John McDonough during the pause on April 27, who was completely against a teardown of the team. Interim president Danny Wirtz has been more open to the idea of a full rebuild and with an upcoming season with few fans in the stands, this might be the best time to undergo transforming the team.
Of course, all four remaining members of their Stanley Cup core are still under contract for another three years with Seabrook having four more years on his deal. All four players have no-movement clauses in their contracts, but would the team undergoing a full rebuild change their minds on leaving Chicago and waive their no-movement clauses? That’s hard to say as each player likely has a different mindset, although Toews made his stance clear.
“I haven’t been a part of that conversation,” he said. “This has all happened pretty suddenly, but the answer is no. Chicago’s my home, and I want to win here again.”