When the Chicago Blackhawks went out and signed Max Domi and Andreas Athanasiou to one-year deals when free agency opened last summer, their goals seemed rather transparent. The club would give them regular minutes in offensive situations to pump up their statistics, and then flip them at the trade deadline for whatever they could get. The Blackhawks aren’t expected to compete this season or next, so it didn’t really matter how well they fit in – only that they secured a future asset in a midseason trade.
While that still may be the case, at least one of them is hoping the Blackhawks change their minds. Domi spoke at length with Scott Powers of The Athletic, explaining that he wants to stay in Chicago and help the club through this rebuild, instead of just being a half-season footnote in it.
Perhaps that is because of how well things have gone so far for Domi, at least in terms of production. The 27-year-old forward is playing center again, regularly lining up beside Patrick Kane, and averaging nearly 19 minutes of ice time. He has 12 goals and 28 points in 39 games, a pace he hasn’t experienced since he put up 72 in 82 games for the Montreal Canadiens in 2018-19. If the club could win, even a little bit more, things might seem pretty perfect for the pending free agent.
The question is, whether Chicago believes Domi can be a key contributor even once they have gone through the rebuilding process and have a lot more talent on the roster. Will he still be so effective if separated from Kane? He gave them a quick look at that future last night when Kane was held out of the lineup. Domi recorded two points including the overtime winner on a beautiful finish, set up by one of the future roster pillars Lukas Reichel.
Perhaps that glimpse is enough to convince general manager Kyle Davidson and the rest of the Blackhawks front office that Domi is a piece to keep around, instead of flip. But there will likely be some tempting offers. Remember, this is basically going exactly according to plan if you consider Chicago’s position. Lose most of your games, but show just enough fight to keep fans interested for the future, while pumping certain players enough to get even more draft capital for them at the deadline. Slowly transition to the young talent – Reichel scored his first NHL goal earlier in the game – with an eye still firmly planted on Connor Bedard and the top of the 2023 draft class.
Davidson has made it clear in the past that he’ll stick to his plan, and move players no matter how well they might fit into the picture right now. So even if Domi wants to stay, the Blackhawks might have other ideas.