2020-21 record 24-25-7, 55 points
6th in the Discover NHL Central Division
Missed the postseason for the first time since 2020
Additions: F Tyler Johnson (acquired from TBL), F Jujhar Khaira, D Caleb Jones (acquired from EDM), D Seth Jones (acquired from CBJ), D Jake McCabe, G Marc-Andre Fleury (acquired from VGK)
Subtractions: F Josh Dickinson (signed with Toledo Walleye, ECHL), F Mikael Hakkarainen (traded to VGK), F Vinnie Hinostroza (signed with BUF), F David Kampf (signed with TOR), F John Quenneville (expansion, SEA), F Tim Soderlund (traded to EDM), F Pius Suter (signed with DET), D Adam Boqvist (traded to CBJ), D Duncan Keith (traded to EDM), D Anton Lindholm (KHL), D Brent Seabrook (contract traded to TBL), D Nikita Zadorov (traded to CGY), G Matt Tomkins (SHL)
Still Unsigned: F Brandon Pirri, F Zack Smith
Re-signed: F Mackenzie Entwistle, F Adam Gaudette, F Brandon Hagel, F Mike Hardman, F Alex Nylander
Offseason Analysis: Stan Bowman has been busy this offseason, though he shouldn’t be able to carry out his duties as General Manager like normal these days and if you’ve been under a rock, TSN‘s Rick Westhead has lots more, and more, and so much more— in addition to another lawsuit against Chicago that’s been resolved over the use of facial recognition software at United Center.
There’s been a few changes to the roster as Chicago moves on from their near-dynasty (remember, the definition of a dynasty is three championships in a four-year span– Chicago won three Stanley Cups in five years, 2010, 2013 and 2015).
Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook (his contract, anyway) both departed the organization this offseason– first with Keith and Tim Soderlund having been traded to the Edmonton Oilers for defender, Caleb Jones, and a conditional 2022 3rd round pick on July 12th, then Seabrook later that month.
If the Oilers make the 2022 Stanley Cup Final and Keith is in the top-four in postseason time on ice on the roster during the first three rounds, then Edmonton will give Chicago a 2022 2nd round pick instead of a 2022 3rd round pick.
Keith broke into the NHL with Chicago in the 2005-06 season and amassed 105-520–625 totals in 1,192 games since then. Now at 38-years-old, he’s about to embark on a new season with a new team– one that’s closer to home, as he’s desired to be nearer to family after spending most of the last 12 months isolated in accordance with NHL COVID-19 protocols– with two years remaining on his contract.
Caleb Jones, meanwhile, joins Chicago as the younger brother of Seth Jones, who was acquired ahead of the 2021 NHL Draft in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets on July 23.
Seth was acquired with a 2021 1st round pick (originally belonging to the Tampa Bay Lightning– 32nd overall, Nolan Allan) and a 2022 6th round pick in exchange for young defender, Adam Boqvist, a 2021 1st round pick (12th overall, Cole Sillinger) and a 2021 2nd round pick (later traded by Columbus to the Carolina Hurricanes– 44th overall, Aleksi Heimosalmi).
The older Jones signed an eight-year extension through the 2029-30 season worth $9.500 million per season, despite his decline since setting career-highs in goals (16), assists (41) and points (57) in 78 games with Columbus in 2017-18.
Since then, Seth’s production dropped to 46 points (nine goals, 37 assists) in 75 games in 2018-19, then 30 points (six goals, 24 assists) in an injury filled 56-game 2019-20 season and 5-23–28 totals in 56 games last season.
Caleb, meanwhile, had four assists in 33 games with Edmonton last season and is signed through 2022-23.
On July 27th, Chicago acquired goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury, from the Vegas Golden Knights for forward, Mikael Hakkarainen.
At 36-years-old and not wanting to be traded from the Golden Knights, Fleury contemplated retiring, despite having one season left on his current contract with a $7.000 million cap hit.
After consulting with Chicago about the organization’s future plans and city life, Fleury is “refreshed and ready” to lead from the crease and mentor Kevin Lankinen, while Lankinen, Colin Delia and Malcolm Subban compete for the backup job.
Last season, Fleury went 26-10-0 in 36 games– recording a 1.98 goals-against average, a .928 save percentage and six shutouts in that span, en route to winning his first Vezina Trophy in his 17-year NHL career.
Since breaking into the league in the 2003-04 season with the Pittsburgh Penguins after he was the 1st overall pick for Pittsburgh in the 2003 NHL Draft, he’s amassed a 492-276-2-80 record in 883 career NHL games for the Penguins and Golden Knights.
Though he won the Vezina last season and posted a 2.04 goals-against average in 16 playoff games in 2021, Fleury had a goals-against average of 2.50 or more in three out of the four prior seasons, so it’d be wise to balance his workload with whoever wins the backup job.
As Chicago is hungry for one last run at the Cup with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews in a Chicago uniform, you can’t risk running Fleury into the ground– especially if this is his last season.
Chicago also added Tyler Johnson and a 2023 2nd round pick in a separate trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning on July 27th in exchange for the Seabrook’s contract.
Seabrook’s career-ending hip injury will help Tampa utilize cap relief via the same long-term injured reserve clause in the collective bargaining agreement that drove some fans around the NHL nuts while the Lightning stockpiled their weapons for their back-to-back Cup championship run.
Meanwhile, Johnson carries a $5.000 million cap hit through 2023-24, and his 8-14–22 totals in 55 games as a 31-year-old last season into Chicago’s middle-six meat of the lineup.
A day later, Chicago traded the rights to Nikita Zadorov to the Calgary Flames for a 2022 3rd round pick after Zadorov spent one season in Chicago and had 1-7–8 totals in 55 games after reaching double-digit points in four out of five prior seasons with the Colorado Avalanche.
Zadorov was rewarded with a one-year deal in Calgary worth $3.750 million, which was $3.750 million more than Chicago wanted to spend on a primarily physical game– and physical game only– defender.
Meanwhile, Chicago’s forward, Andrew Shaw, is heading to the long-term injured reserve for salary cap relief of about $3.900 million in the final year of his contract– forced into retirement due to multiple concussions sustained over his 10-year career.
Offseason Grade: C
Johnson and Fleury bring name brand recognition to a lineup that’s remained mostly unchanged from last season to this season– even with the addition of Seth Jones to the defense in light of Keith’s planned departure.
Pius Suter put up 14-13–27 totals in 55 games in an impressive NHL debut for a 25-year-old last season and Chicago chose not to tender him a qualifying offer– allowing Suter to walk and sign with the Detroit Red Wings for a little more than half of what Chicago is paying Johnson for about the same results.
Chicago took a risk this offseason as they’re desperate for Toews and Kane to remain in good faith with the organization– with Toews returning to the lineup after missing all of the 2020-21 season due to a bout with a chronic illness– as both players could leave the organization for greener pastures after the 2022-23 season when their matching eight-year contracts with $10.500 million cap hits expire.
The fact of the matter is that Chicago took their foot off the gas after winning it all for the third time in five years in 2015.
There’s no clear “goaltender of the future” and the prospect pool is being restocked after years of sustained success depleted it.
After the Nashville Predators swept Chicago in the 2017 First Round, Bowman could’ve made sweeping moves to keep Chicago competitive– a la the Pittsburgh Penguins for the greater part of the last 15 years– but he didn’t having over-relied on what was familiar, like most NHL GMs.
Then again, inaction when the situation necessitates action seems like it’s on brand for Bowman and the organization.