If Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews stay, what will Blackhawks’ lines look like?
It appears increasingly unlikely the two veteran cornerstones will be traded this summer. If they aren’t, the Hawks’ forward depth chart — weak as it is — is pretty much now set.
The Blackhawks won’t be an offensive juggernaut next season. After Wednesday, however, they’re at least on track to put a full and roughly NHL-caliber roster of forwards on the ice.
For starters, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews appear increasingly likely to stick around. Their agent, Pat Brisson, told TSN’s Pierre LeBrun on Wednesday: ‘‘While they’re not necessarily in agreement with the direction the team is taking, they will let the dust settle first and then patiently make the best decisions . . . [for] their respective careers.’’
Toews was practicing in high spirits at Fifth Third Arena with Hawks skills coaches, Connor Murphy, MacKenzie Entwistle and several other Chicago-based players.
And very few teams are still flush with salary-cap space after free-agent activity Wednesday. That reality means Kane’s and Toews’ contracts will be difficult to move this offseason, even if they do eventually request trades. In-season next year — most likely at the trade deadline —now appears to be the most plausible time for their departures.
So pencil Kane and Toews into the first line of a theoretical depth chart. On their wing, the Hawks could deploy newcomers Max Domi or Andreas Athanasiou, both of whom have shown upper-end scoring potential in years past, or top rookie Lukas Reichel.
Reichel presents an interesting case. The Hawks won’t want their top forward prospect toiling away with inadequate wingers on an awful team. He’ll develop best playing wing alongside Toews and Kane or starting at center in the American Hockey League for another season.
Tyler Johnson and newcomer Colin Blackwell will be the Hawks’ second- and third-line centers, which will be one of many weaknesses on this depth chart.
Domi, Athanasiou, Taylor Raddysh, Sam Lafferty and (once he’s re-signed) Philipp Kurashev presumably will rotate around Johnson’s and Blackwell’s wings. The Hawks would love to see Raddysh and Lafferty maintain the momentum from their encouraging March and April performances.
On the fourth line, Entwistle, Jujhar Khaira and Boris Katchouk are fairly sure bets, and Mike Hardman, Reese Johnson and Josiah Slavin will compete for playing time.
Despite the off-ice buzz, Hawks development camp continued as normal, with the prospects participating in on-ice testing drills.
Among the Hawks’ stacked group of defensemen, Ethan Del Mastro and Louis Crevier have flown somewhat under the radar, but they’re worth keeping eyes on.
Both already have signed entry-level contracts, defying the odds for players in their draft positions. Crevier was taken in the seventh round in 2020 and Del Mastro in the fourth round in 2021.
Both also have tremendous size. Crevier measures 6-8 and 219 pounds — he’s hoping to bulk up to around 235, eventually — and Del Mastro measures 6-4 and 209 pounds. He said that’ll be roughly his weight.
Del Mastro, in particular, is developing at an exciting rate. After notching seven points in 57 games for Mississauga of the Ontario Hockey League in 2019-20 and not playing in 2020-21 because of COVID-19, he exploded for 48 points in 68 games as Mississauga’s captain in 2021-22. He’ll return next season as one of the OHL’s top defensemen.
‘‘I showcased a little more offense and poise with the puck, for sure,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s something I’ve always had in my game. It’s just been about showing it.’’
Added director of player development Mark Eaton, who’s running the camp for the Hawks: ‘‘[Ethan is] filling out, getting stronger and learning how to use that size and reach to his advantage. The sky’s the limit.’’