After a potentially traumatic NHL Draft weekend for a number of Chicago Blackhawks fans, the rebuild news continues to metaphorically build. In the aftermath of trading Alex DeBrincat to Ottawa and Kirby Dach to Montreal, the Blackhawks will not be qualifying a pair of familiar names in Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome.
Reports surfaced as early as last week regarding the futures of these two players. However, after the aforementioned trades, it was easy to imagine the team was not retaining the pair. Now, both players will be unrestricted free agents and have the ability to sign elsewhere.
Truthfully, seeing both of these players walk is not a surprise. General manager Kyle Davidson made it very apparent that Chicago is undergoing a full-scale rebuild. Now, Davidson frees up about $7.6 million ($4 million QO for Kubalik, $3.6 million QO for Strome) by letting these two hit the open market.
Monday's 4:00 PM deadline for qualifying offers will reportedly only see the team qualify Philipp Kurashev and Caleb Jones. Aside from Kubalik and Strome, forwards Andrei Altybarmakyan and Cameron Morrison, defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk, and goalie Cale Morris will not receive offers.
The indication surrounding these moves is clear, prepare for the rebuild. That said, this is not a re-tool. Rather, this is as close to tanking as the Chicago Blackhawks have been in the last 15-plus years. Very few teams ever tear a roster down to the bare bones. However, Davidson is doing just that after freeing up what feels like half the roster.
One thing is certain, this team will look wildly different in 2022-23. The futures of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews also remain up in the air. Come opening night, perhaps one or both of these stars will not be wearing a Blackhawks jersey. Mark Lazerus indicated the feel of this rebuild in a recent article for The Athletic, stating that it seems Kane and Toews are being forced out. Davidson might not ask them to move their NMCs, but he's certainly giving them every reason to leave town.
There is still a good chance that the Blackhawks add players in free agency. Ideally, players on one-year contracts who can create value at the trade deadline will be targets. However, don't expect more than a few new names to join the roster. As of now, the tank is fully on with the likes of Sam Lafferty and Brett Connolly possibly playing in the top six this season. Let that sink in.