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Blackhawks’ old core — Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith — will stay with team during rebuild

General manager Stan Bowman talked with the veterans and eased their concerns about the team’s rebuild this week.

Despite the Blackhawks’ youth movement, the preexisting core of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith will remain part of the team.
Despite the Blackhawks’ youth movement, the preexisting core of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith will remain part of the team.
Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

This story is the second installment of a four-part interview with Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman that took place Monday. For part one, detailing the Hawks’ rebuilding plans, click here.

The Blackhawks’ rebuild, now official after a much-discussed letter to fans Tuesday, will focus on giving NHL opportunities to young prospects.

And while that means the Hawks will employ fewer veterans than in years past, the ageless ‘‘old core’’ of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith will remain with them for the foreseeable future.

General manager Stan Bowman confirmed that Monday, adding that he talked with Toews, Kane, Keith and Brent Seabrook via Zoom last week to reassure them.

‘‘I had a chance to talk with all those guys recently, and I was trying to explain to them the direction that we’re taking, which is not that much different than what we’ve been doing over the last couple of years,’’ Bowman said. ‘‘We’ve used [Alex] DeBrincat. We’ve leaned on [Kirby] Dach. We gave [Adam] Boqvist an opportunity.’’

That Zoom meeting took place shortly after an explosive interview Toews gave to The Athletic on Oct. 11, in which he said the Hawks’ decision to move on from Corey Crawford and Brandon Saad ‘‘came as a shock’’ and represented a ‘‘completely different direction than we expected.’’

Bowman, seemingly surprised by Toews’ comments, said the situation had been misconstrued.

‘‘What I wanted to clarify with Jonathan was, ‘What you’re anticipating is not [what’s happening],’ ’’ Bowman said. ‘‘We’re continuing on a path that we’ve been on. So the path is not really changing. If anything, though, we’re going to be more clear about it with everybody, and we’re also going to continue to invest in young players to a probably even larger degree than we have in the past.’’

Bowman, however, did take the blame for the Hawks’ lack of transparency and clear public messaging about their intentions during the days immediately after Crawford’s and Saad’s departures.

That PR disaster presumably contributed to the Hawks’ decision to usher in a new era of more open communication between the front office and players, media and fans, starting with the letter Tuesday.

‘‘Certainly you don’t want your players to be misinformed, so that’s on me to make sure that doesn’t happen,’’ Bowman said. ‘‘When I did talk to all the veterans recently, it was a very detailed, in-depth conversation. I don’t think there will be any future misunderstandings.’’

Toews’ comments made waves, especially because Crawford and Saad also referred to a lack of communication from the Hawks in the weeks leading up to their exits.

Crawford said the Hawks made only one contract offer to him and his agent shortly after the playoffs ended in August and never followed up with a counterproposal — as he expected them to — before giving up on re-signing him Oct. 8.

Bowman said the Hawks didn’t follow up because it was clear the sides wouldn’t see eye-to-eye on the length of the contract.

‘‘The problem with signing him to a multiyear deal is that, if at the end of this year there was a young goalie that was available . . . we would not be in the market to get that person because we’ve already committed ourselves to Corey for another year,’’ Bowman said. ‘‘So shorter term — a one-year deal — was much more appealing to us, and that didn’t interest Corey.’’

Crawford ended up signing a two-year contract with the Devils.

With Saad, who had one year left on his contract, Bowman said he followed standard procedure by not talking much before the trade.

‘‘You’re not going to call and say, ‘Hey, we’re probably going to be trading you, Brandon,’ ’’ Bowman said. ‘‘And then if it doesn’t pan out, you say, ‘Actually, we’re not trading you, forget what I said.’ There was no reason for me to communicate with Brandon until the trade was consummated, and then we had a good talk at that point.’’