The Chicago Blackhawks blew it up this summer, but even with the preseason underway, two of the team’s most prominent names remain with the club. Despite constant trade speculation, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are returning to the Blackhawks, albeit with a pretty flawed roster surrounding them.
Given that the Blackhawks moved on from some pretty good young players over the offseason, a Kane or Toews trade feels more realistic than it did earlier this year. Both players’ contracts are expiring at the end of the season, too. They could be valuable rentals, if not long-term pieces, for many contenders. But what if both players remain on the club and at least finish out the season as Blackhawks?
While it’s likely neither player will be around or have a major role on the next competitive Chicago club, there are some good reasons why the Blackhawks could keep both players for now. As counterintuitive as it may seem to their current goals, here are three reasons why they could keep Kane and Toews, at least through the end of 2022-23.
Both Kane and Toews Would Have to Waive NMCs
The Blackhawks can’t just trade Kane or Toews. Both players have no-movement clauses (NMCs), meaning either would have to approve a deal from Chicago general manager (GM) Kyle Davidson. They’d have the final say and would essentially leave the club on their own terms.
At the moment, it seems unlikely Kane or Toews would waive their current NMCs and/or request a trade. The possibility can’t be ruled out, though. Toews, specifically, told The Athletic in July that a long-term rebuild didn’t sound appealing to him (from ‘Jonathan Toews on his Blackhawks future and beyond: Trade, free agent, retirement or rebuild?,’ The Athletic, 07/26/22). Yet, even with these comments, both players seem content with being in Chicago. Additionally, Kane’s even expressed optimism about his current team.
This season will be full of growing pains for the Blackhawks. As the year progresses, it would be understandable if both players wanted out. However, even if the team’s designed to be bad, that doesn’t mean the players won’t be giving their maximum effort. Head coach Luke Richardson is also at the helm, and he’s shown a competitive spirit early on in training camp and the preseason. Even though they won’t be winning much, it’s possible Kane and Toews might want to embrace what could be their final season in Chicago.
Kane and Toews Remain Marketable and Sell Tickets
Last October, the Blackhawks’ sellout streak of 535 games ended, which dated back to 2008-09 (from ‘As Blackhawks hit new low, fans’ disenchantment reaches United Center,’ Chicago Sun-Times, 10/24/21). That’s remarkable when you put it in perspective, considering the downfall of the team since their last Stanley Cup in 2015. Of course, the Blackhawks are a large-market team and will probably still be able to sell out a handful of games during the rebuild. Yet, you can’t deny Kane and Toews are fan favorites and have played an integral role in making the Blackhawks a big draw.
Sure, Toews isn’t the player he once was, and his production has mostly dwindled since the Blackhawks’ dynasty days of the early 2010s. That said, he remains a prominent face in the organization. Kane, meanwhile, has continued thriving and has played some of the best hockey of his career over the last half-decade. As bad as Chicago might be this season, the team certainly wants fans to keep coming back. Having Kane and Toews around could help that objective.
Blackhawks Might Want to Keep Kane and Toews for Experience
Chicago’s rebuild is nowhere near over, but the Blackhawks will certainly have a handful of young faces come up and get ice time throughout the season. Depending on how the rest of the preseason goes, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Lukas Reichel and/or Alex Vlasic begin the season at the NHL level. Other prospects such as Alec Regula, Ian Mitchell, and Cole Guttman could also be in the mix for roles on this year’s team.
Mentorship is important in hockey, especially during the beginning of a rebuild. Now, beyond Kane and Toews, the Blackhawks still have a solid leadership group. Seth Jones and Connor Murphy were both named alternate captains this past Wednesday, and while both players should help the team this season, neither has the same presence as Kane and Toews. Their leadership and experience are invaluable, which Chicago may still value even if management’s goal is to tank.
Chicago Could Still Effectively Rebuild Without Moving Both Players
While prospects such as Reichel, Kevin Korchinski, and others have shown promise, we’re a long way from determining how successful the Blackhawks’ rebuild will be. They could easily become the next Buffalo Sabres just as much as they could become the next Colorado Avalanche or Tampa Bay Lightning. Though it’s ultimately up to Kane and Toews as to whether either leaves the club, losing both for nothing could harm the Blackhawks in the long run. Throughout a rebuild, part of gaining assets involves giving up assets.
Having said that, if the Blackhawks decide to keep Kane and/or Toews this season, that doesn’t mean the rebuild couldn’t become a success. Keeping both players would make it tougher to get younger, but Chicago will have numerous drafts and other opportunities to continue gaining assets moving forward.
Anything’s possible, but it sure seems like Chicago plans to keep Kane and Toews — for now, at least — as opposed to trading them. Even though the Blackhawks are tanking, it wouldn’t be shocking to see both players stay with the team through the end of 2022-23.
Connor Smith covers the Chicago Blackhawks for The Hockey Writers. He is from Naperville, Illinois, and is pursuing his master’s at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Chicago. In May 2022, he graduated from Ball State University, earning summa cum laude honors. Along with The Hockey Writers, he’s written and edited for The Ball State Daily News, Ball State’s on-campus student newspaper. Smith has also interned for Best Version Media (BVM) Sports and Jersey Column, a Georgia-based sports blog. You can find more info about Smith and his work through his online portfolio, connornsmith0719.wordpress.com.