What's next for the Blackhawks, Part I: Forwards

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19), right, moves the puck with right wing Patrick Kane (88) during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Winnipeg Jets, Monday, April 1, 2019, in Chicago.

    Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19), right, moves the puck with right wing Patrick Kane (88) during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Winnipeg Jets, Monday, April 1, 2019, in Chicago. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 3/21/2020 6:33 PM

What does the future hold for the Chicago Blackhawks?

With the NHL season in limbo due to the coronavirus, this is an excellent time to dive into what we can expect out of the current players.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

We'll split this exercise up into two days, with a look at the forwards in Part I and a look at the defensemen and goalies in Part II.

Jonathan Toews:

Stats: 18 goals, 42 assists in 70 games

Contract status: Three years remaining with a $10.5 million cap hit

The skinny: The Hawks' captain truly found the fountain of youth after rough campaigns in 2016-17 and 2017-18. He put up career highs last season (35G, 46A) and followed that up with an impressive 2019-20. The 31-year-old really took off after being paired with Dominik Kubalik as he scored 13 goals and had 32 assists in the final 41 games.

Toews must keep fending off Father Time, but he appears well equipped to do so for at least another season or two.

Patrick Kane:

Stats: 33G, 51A in 70 games

Contract status: Three years remaining with a $10.5 million cap hit

The skinny: About the only questions when it comes to Kane is: A) When will he finally slow down? B) Might he play until he's 40, 41 or 42? and C) Will he spend his entire career with the Blackhawks? Many of you may not be able to fathom this, but it is certainly plausible that Kane -- and perhaps Toews -- decide to finish their careers elsewhere. Much of it will depend on the state of the team and, not surprisingly, who is in charge.

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Brandon Saad:

Stats: 21G, 12A in 58 games

Contract status: One year remaining with a $6 million cap hit

The skinny: Saad remains a very solid, two-way player and he's only 27 years old. So what do you do with him? Hold on and extend him to one more lengthy deal at approximately the same cap hit so he can be around as the rebuild gathers steam? Or trade him for a prospect or two and/or draft picks? It's a tough call and it will be fascinating to see which road the Hawks take.

Alex DeBrincat:

Stats: 18G, 27A in 70 games

Contract status: Three years remaining with a $6.4 million cap hit

The skinny: Despite (likely) finishing with career highs in shots on goal per game (2.96) and total shot attempts per game (5.19), DeBrincat failed to hit the 20-goal mark in 70 games. That's a steep decline in production after the diminutive forward took the league by storm by scoring 28 times as a rookie, then following that up with an eye-opening 41-goal campaign in 2018-19. One has to figure the puck luck just wasn't with DeBrincat and that 30-plus goals are coming next season. If that's the case, it certainly bodes well for the Hawks' chances to return to the playoffs.

Dylan Strome:

Stats: 12G, 26A in 58 games

Contract status: Restricted free agent (RFA) on July 1

The skinny: It was an uneven season for Strome, who missed time with an injury and also struggled when Jeremy Colliton tried playing him at wing for a while. The Ontario native is just 23, however, and he'd be a great third-line center on a true contender. A reasonable contract for both sides figures to carry a cap hit of between $3.5 million and $4.5 million for three years.

Dominik Kubalik:

Stats: 30G, 16A in 68 games

Contract status: RFA with arbitration rights on July 1

The skinny: Despite averaging under 14½ minutes a game and seeing only token time on the top power-play unit, Kubalik still managed to score 30 times. He probably would have finished with 35 if the season were completed. GM Stan Bowman has been working with Kubalik's agent to try and hammer out a deal. The Hawks absolutely can't let this kid get away, so I'd expect something to be completed before the off-season arrives.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Andrew Shaw:

Stats: 3G, 7A in 26 games

Contract status: Two years remaining with a $3.9 million cap hit

The skinny: The reacquisition of Shaw from Montreal is looking like a big mistake as he missed more than three months with a concussion. The Hawks must hope he can return next year and give them 70-plus games -- something the oft-injured Shaw has been unable to do since 2015-16.

Ryan Carpenter:

Stats: 3G, 12A in 69 games

Contract status: Two years remaining with a $1 million cap hit

The skinny: Carpenter, a solid signing last off-season, helped the Hawks improve their dreadful penalty kill. He's also a quiet leader behind the scenes, one who organized a team chapel so that a few of his teammates can help grow their faith during the hectic regular season.

David Kampf:

Stats: 8G, 8A in 70 games

Contract status: One year remaining with a $1 million cap, then RFA with arbitration rights

The skinny: Kampf is a poor man's Marcus Kruger, a reliable fourth-line center who is solid on faceoffs (52.3%) and is a solid penalty killer. Just 25 years old, Kampf figures to stay in this role for another 2-4 seasons.

Zack Smith:

Stats: 4G, 7A in 50 games

Contract status: One year remaining with a $3.25 million cap hit

The skinny: A veteran of 662 games, Smith has helped several young forwards with sage advice behind the scenes. Still, if the Hawks ink another overseas talent and/or someone like Anton Wedin is ready to take the next step, it wouldn't be out of the question for Stan Bowman to buy out Smith's contract. That would cost the Hawks $1.083 million in each of the next two seasons.

Drake Caggiula:

Stats: 9G, 6A in 40 games

Contract status: RFA with arbitration rights

The skinny: I love Caggiula's game. He brings so much to the table and has been a fantastic addition. The problem is he keeps getting hurt and another concussion could end his career. So beg him to tone it down a bit and offer a one-year deal between $1.5 million and $2 million.

Kirby Dach:

Stats: 8G, 15A in 64 games

Contract status: Two years left with a $925,000 cap hit

The skinny: Dach averaged just 12 minutes of ice time in his first 24 games, then averaged 15:38 in his last 40. Despite mediocre offensive production, we've seen his confidence explode the last two months. After what figures to be an intense summer of training, don't be surprised if the 197-pound Dach comes back at about 210-215 pounds. I'd expect a 20-goal, 30-assist campaign in 2020-21.

Alexander Nylander:

Stats: 10G, 16A in 65 games

Contract status: One year remaining with a $863,333 cap hit, then an RFA

The skinny: Nylander, while still making plenty of mistakes, did look more comfortable over the past month (4G, 5A in 13 GP). As I've written before, this kid has a world of offensive talent -- it's just about learning the nuances of the game and competing harder. If he does both, there's no reason he can't carve out a significant role for the next five years.

Matthew Highmore:

Stats: 2G, 4A in 36 games

Contract status: RFA with arbitration rights

The skinny: High-energy guy who is an absolute bulldog in the corners. He'll need every bit of that tenacity to earn another spot on the roster next season.

Fighting for jobs next season/trade bait: Brandon Hagel, Dylan Sikura, Anton Wedin, Philipp Kurashev, John Quenneville

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