Jonathan Toews stepping away from Blackhawks because of health concerns, eliminating trade possibility

Toews hasn’t played since Jan. 28 because of effects of long COVID and chronic immune response syndrome, he clarified Sunday.

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Jonathan Toews skates with the puck.

Jonathan Toews said Sunday he’s officially stepping away from the Blackhawks for the time being.

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The great trade-deadline question about Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is now moot.

It has been replaced by a new question of greater concern: Will Toews play again this season?

Toews, who hasn’t played or practiced with the Hawks since Jan. 28 (the last day before the All-Star break), announced Sunday he needs to step away from the team — at least for the time being — because of health issues.

He remains hampered by the effects of long COVID and chronic immune response syndrome, which is the same condition that sidelined him throughout the 2021 season.

‘‘It has been really challenging to play through these symptoms,’’ Toews said in a statement. ‘‘In the last few weeks, it has reached the point where I had no choice but to step back and concentrate on getting healthy. I am thankful for the patience and support of my teammates, the coaching staff and the entire Blackhawks organization.’’

Toews, who will turn 35 in April, had resumed skating for a couple of days last week in Chicago while the Hawks were in Canada. But he stopped that after his ‘‘body wasn’t responding the way he was hoping,’’ general manager Kyle Davidson said.

With any trade possibility now squashed, the Hawks are optimistic Toews might be able to return for some games before the season finale April 13. There’s no guarantee of that, however.

‘‘We’re going to work with him and support him in whatever he needs to make sure he’s feeling good, feeling strong and in a spot where he can come back on the ice,’’ Davidson said. ‘‘We’ll take it day by day, but the hope is he can still play some games here down the stretch.’’

Beyond that, Toews remains a pending unrestricted free agent come July 1, at which point it’s unclear what might happen.

If his health issues don’t improve, retirement might be on the table. If they do, he and Davidson theoretically could discuss a new one- or two-year contract, but the rebuilding Hawks might want to turn the page and move on.

Davidson said that the news Sunday doesn’t alter any of the Hawks’ long-term plans and that he’ll start weighing those after the March 3 trade deadline passes.

Toews has battled through less-than-100% health for a while, having dealt with ‘‘fatigue and soreness’’ since the beginning of the season, coach Luke Richardson said. Even before this absence, he had missed two other games — Dec. 6 at the Devils and Jan. 26 at the Flames — because of illness.

‘‘The test and the challenge is special when things aren’t going your way in your external world,’’ Toews said Dec. 13. ‘‘It’s a challenge, for sure, to keep showing up and having that attitude [that] you’re going to have fun, you’re going to work hard and you’re going to enjoy the grind.’’

In spite of those challenges, Toews has played decently this season, notching 14 goals (tied for the team lead entering Sunday) and 14 assists in 46 games and averaging 17 minutes, 55 seconds of ice time. He also leads the NHL with an impressive 63.3% faceoff percentage, the best of his career.

His stoutness on defense has fallen off significantly from his heyday, but he had looked more like his normal self than he did last season.

‘‘It’s frustrating,’’ Davidson said. ‘‘He wants to compete. He wants his body to respond effectively and the way he wishes it would. [I’ve had a] couple of chats with him, [and] he’s in good spirits but frustrated. That’s understandable.’’

From an asset standpoint, Toews’ decision to step away gives Davidson one fewer veteran to shop to a playoff contender in the next 11 days. But he insisted that the Hawks’ first concern is Toews’ well-being and that all deadline implications are ‘‘totally secondary.’’

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