Blackhawks won’t re-sign captain Jonathan Toews as GM Kyle Davidson ‘clears the deck’ for next core

The Flyers-Hawks game Thursday officially marked Toews’ final appearance with the team. Davidson said he wants the Hawks’ incoming young stars to be able to grow into leaders themselves without deferring to someone else.

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Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews looks on.

Jonathan Toews won’t be re-signed by the Blackhawks this summer.

Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

If Jonathan Toews plays hockey next season, it won’t be with the Blackhawks.

General manager Kyle Davidson said Thursday the Hawks won’t re-sign Toews when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer, marking the end of his 16-year career in Chicago and 15-year tenure as their captain.

Davidson said he decided not to bring back Toews to create a clean slate for the Hawks’ next generation of young players. It’s the same decision he seemingly made with Patrick Kane, which preceded Kane’s decision to request a trade last month to the Rangers.

Davidson said he thinks this will provide that next generation with the same opportunities to grow quickly into leadership roles that Toews, Kane and their generation received when they entered the NHL in the mid-2000s.

‘‘It was time to clear the deck and start building some new leaders,’’ Davidson said. ‘‘[This will] allow the organic growth of leadership skills and provide this new wave the same opportunity that this past era was granted when they entered the NHL. [It’s] an opportunity to step up, step in and work through the leadership development on their own terms, rather than deferring and just leaving that to someone else.’’

Those leadership skills apply not only within the locker room but also in terms of forming one-on-one relationships with Davidson and coach Luke Richardson, Davidson said.

The earliest pieces of the new wave — players such as forward Lukas Reichel (whose season Davidson described as ‘‘dynamite’’), defensemen Alex Vlasic and Wyatt Kaiser and goalie Arvid Soderblom — are expected to move into the NHL full-time. Prospects such as forward Frank Nazar, defenseman Kevin Korchinski and plenty more who have yet to be drafted hopefully will arrive in the years ahead.

There still will be veteran leaders on the roster, of course. Defensemen Connor Murphy, Seth Jones and just-extended Jarred Tinordi and forward Tyler Johnson, for some examples, all remain under contract for next season. But the idea is they aren’t such towering presences that they will overshadow Reichel and Co.

‘‘I get the potential disappointment because [Toews and Kane] are legends,’’ Davidson said. ‘‘They’ve . . . brought so much success that [that reaction is] only natural. But we’ve got to do what we think is best for the growth of the team.’’

Davidson and Toews culminated weeks’ worth of discussions about this subject last weekend in Seattle. He said Toews then caught up with chairman Rocky Wirtz and CEO Danny Wirtz to reminisce about all the years they experienced together.

Toews has said he doesn’t know yet whether he’ll retire this summer or try to play again next season, but he thinks that decision will become very clear to him by July or August, based on how his body feels.

Davidson said the Hawks ‘‘believe he is going to play’’ somewhere next season. Given how determined, confident and resilient Toews continues to be — at least mentally — that wouldn’t be too shocking.

But whenever Toews’ playing career does end, he seems an obvious choice to move into coaching or another hockey-related role. Davidson said the door would be open to him, when that time comes, to look at front-office jobs with the Hawks.

‘‘We can’t thank him enough for everything he’s done,’’ Davidson said. ‘‘The Blackhawks organization and the city of Chicago will be forever indebted to him for the amazing ride that he took us on. Wherever he goes and wherever he plays next, he’ll be a Blackhawk forever.’’

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