The past several seasons have been difficult for the Chicago Blackhawks. This season, however, feels like rock bottom after missing the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five years. New general manager Kyle Davidson faces some big decisions as he prepares to rebuild the roster.
What to do with long-time Blackhawks stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews could top Davidson's list. Both players have a year remaining on their identical contracts with $10.5 million salary-cap hits and full no-movement clauses.
The Athletic's Scott Powers reported Davidson intends to maintain communication with Kane and Toews, including meeting with them and their agent, Pat Brisson, following the season. Having both on board with the rebuild will help but it remains to be seen if they're willing to be part of it.
Speculation persists over their futures and that of scoring winger Alex DeBrincat. Powers cited a league source saying they wouldn't be shocked if Kane and DeBrincat hit the trade block this summer. Meanwhile, the Chicago Sun-Times' Ben Pope wondered if Toews can stomach another season of disappointment after recently voicing his frustration over the club's poor performance.
NHL.com's Dan Rosen has expressed his belief that the trio will be back with the Blackhawks next season. He doesn't see Kane and Toews getting traded unless they request it. Of those two, he felt Kane would be the easiest to move as he remains their best player and could fetch the best return. Rosen considered the 24-year-old DeBrincat an elite scorer worth rebuilding around.
It could take until the NHL Draft and the start of free agency in July to get a clearer picture of Davidson's plans and whether Kane, Toews or DeBrincat fit into them.