Chicago made a big show of entertaining some unorthodox candidates from outside of hockey, but in the end the Hawks kept things in the family by naming internal option Kyle Davidson as the 10th GM in the franchise's long history.
While it's fair to wonder if an organization that has seen many of its executives and brain trust washed away in the Brad Aldrich scandal should have gone with a guy who shared office space with said execs for the past decade, we have to hope the Hawks did their research and saw Davidson as a clean hire. So now the fun starts.
The Blackhawks are entering an incredibly intriguing era, one filled with both uncertainty and opportunity. Chicago will not be a playoff team this season and based on the strength of the Central Division, next year might be tough sledding, too.
Of course, the summer of 2023 is also when the two most important players in franchise history, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane (yeah, I said it), are eligible to hit the market as unrestricted free agents. Both of their long-term deals expire then and it's entirely fair to wonder what those players are thinking about their future and how Davidson and the Hawks wish to proceed.
Toews in particular will be fascinating, as the captain has gone through the wringer when it comes to health issues lately. He's already had a Hall of Fame career with multiple Stanley Cups and Olympic gold, so if Toews were to retire after his contract ends, he could not be faulted: He has accomplished everything in his hockey career.
Kane has a similar Hall of Fame resume, though he lacks the Olympic gold medal. Kane has also been much healthier than his good buddy and the American right winger is still a point-per-gamer for the squad. It's hard to see Kane playing in another NHL jersey, but if Chicago is going in another direction and he's still game to play, would the two in fact move on from each other? Part of me has always wondered if Kane would ever play for his hometown Buffalo Sabres at some point in his career. On the other hand, perhaps Davidson would want a couple more years of Kane to serve as connective tissue for the next generation. He has already said that he is looking at a rebuild in Chicago, one that will take some time - but how much of a rebuild are we looking at?
Overall the Hawks are a strange group because they went big by adding Marc-Andre Fleury and Seth Jones to the roster this season, but I'm not sure those outside the organization saw them as much of a threat - especially in a division lorded over by Colorado. Jones' new mega-contract kicks in next season and he'll obviously be a staple on the blueline for years to come, but what happens elsewhere?
Fleury's name has already been bandied about in trade deadline rumors and the multiple Cup champ would fetch a decent price - at the least, Chicago should be able to replace the first-rounder they lost in the Jones deal (that piece is conditional and could become a 2023 first-rounder if the Hawks happen to land one of the top two draft spots this season).
Luckily for Davidson, Chicago has a crack scouting department that has done some great work recently: Some of my personal favorites include Alex Vlasic, Drew Commesso, Wyatt Kaiser, Ethan Del Mastro, Victor Stjernborg and Lukas Reichel. So he's got a pipeline to draw from already, plus a potential top-line center of the future in Kirby Dach. While Dach hasn't put up huge numbers in the NHL yet, we've seen many examples of big centers taking a few years to get up to full speed in the league - and given his injury setbacks, that goes double for Dach.
It's also important to note that Alex DeBrincat still has years of great productivity ahead of him, so Chicago will never be barren in the goals department.
But change will be coming to the roster and there will likely be some pain for a team that has not been able to defend in the past few years. That's where the focus should be for Davidson: making this a complete, two-way team, just as it was during those Cup years. It may take some time, but we've seen what jumping too early can mean for a franchise and from the sounds of it, Davidson won't be making that mistake.