Blackhawks believe they’re ‘positioned pretty well’ for NHL’s 2021 expansion draft
The Hawks are guaranteed to lose someone to the Seattle Kraken — every team will — but they should be able to protect most or all of their integral players.
When defenseman Madison Bowey made his first two appearances for the Blackhawks last week, he crossed a crucial threshold.
Bowey’s number of games played in the last two seasons rose from 53 to 55, making him an ‘‘experienced’’ defenseman for the purposes of the NHL expansion draft that will be held this summer to build the Seattle Kraken.
Every NHL team is required to expose at least two experienced forwards and one experienced defenseman for the Kraken to choose from. Bowey, who wasn’t even on the Hawks’ roster until a few weeks ago and isn’t a big part of their future plans, now helps the franchise in that regard.
Although much can and will happen between now and the expansion draft, Bowey’s situation is an example of the Hawks planning ahead for it.
General manager Stan Bowman said he’s confident the Hawks won’t lose anyone integral to their plans.
‘‘We have a pretty good idea of what we’re going to do,’’ Bowman said recently. ‘‘There are some teams that are in a more perilous position to maybe lose a really important player. I’m not sure that’s the case for us. We’re positioned pretty well.’’
The 2021 rules are the same as in 2017, when the Golden Knights plucked defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk from the Hawks.
Teams must expose at least three experienced players, as described, who are under contract for another year. Bowey and fourth-line forwards Ryan Carpenter and Matthew Highmore are all relatively low-value Hawks who already meet the requirements.
On the other end, teams can protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie or eight total skaters (in any combination) and one goalie.
Last time, 24 of 30 teams — including the Hawks — chose the first option. But both could be viable choices for the Hawks this time.
Before that decision must be made, however, the Hawks know forwards Kirby Dach, Dominik Kubalik, Pius Suter and Philipp Kurashev, defensemen Ian Mitchell, Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin and all their other first- and second-year players are automatically exempt. That’s a huge portion of their young core that won’t count against the protection limit.
Conversely, the four veterans with no-movement clauses — forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews and defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — require automatic protection (unless they can be persuaded to waive their clauses) and do count against the limit.
The Hawks almost certainly will protect forwards Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome, plus Kevin Lankinen as their one goalie.
The players Bowman really will have to make decisions about are forwards Alex Nylander and Brandon Hagel and defensemen Connor Murphy, Calvin de Haan and Nikita Zadorov.
If the Hawks protect two of those three defensemen, they can’t protect either forward.
Or the Hawks could protect only one of the three defensemen (likely Murphy) and protect Nylander, Hagel and another forward — probably David Kampf, Andrew Shaw (if he recovers from his latest concussion) or Mattias Janmark (if the Hawks plan to re-sign him as an unrestricted free agent this summer).
Depending on the route they take, the Hawks might end up exposing several decent players. But other teams are in far worse situations, and Bowman quickly emphasized the Hawks only can lose one player, no matter what.
‘‘We’ve done a lot of scenario-planning and a lot of ‘What if?’ ’’ Bowman said. ‘‘Part of it depends on what Seattle does and who they pick from other teams. You can look at it now and say, ‘Well, they’re probably going to be interested in this player.’ But if they end up getting a lot of similar types of guys, they might look for someone else.
‘‘It’s hard to totally game-plan it, but we have spent a lot of time preparing ourselves. We’re going to be fine.’’