On Tuesday, the Blackhawks issued a letter to season ticket holders addressing their management.
“We are committed to developing young players and rebuilding our roster,” the letter read. “We want more than another window to win; we want to rise to the top again and stay there – an effort that will require a stock of emerging talent to complement our best players. ”
According to Bowman, this is not a pivot, but rather an extension of the Blackhawks’ goal over the past two seasons. “Most of the things in the letter we did anyway,” Bowman said. “We just haven’t been very forthright with the fact that we’re doing them. “
The commitment to transparency comes after a transformative offseason, in which the Blackhawks parted ways with forward Brandon Saad and goalie Corey Crawford, whom the letter describes as “a pair of popular two-time champions.” Chicago took the lead despite losing the fifth-seeded Oilers this summer in the extended NHL playoff tournament to advance to the playoffs. The Blackhawks were knocked out in the first round by the Golden Knights.
In an interview with The Athletic last week, captain Jonathan Toews said he was surprised by the offseason moves.
“I was never told we were going to have a rebuild,” Toews told The Athletic. “It was never communicated to me, by the way. Much of it is a shock as it is a completely different direction than we expected. ”
Bowman himself was taken aback by Toews’ comments. The general manager said he spoke to his captain about the team’s approach throughout the season, as well as Toews’ exit meeting.
“I think what is assumed in this comment is a little misunderstanding because I have spoken to Jonathan since then; I’ve talked to all the veterans, ”Bowman said. “I tried to explain that leading the team – we are on the same path as we were last year. There really is no change of direction. We are more honest about it. And if anything, we will double down to invest even more in our young players. Leadership is not something that changes drastically for us.
“Maybe the concept that everything is changing is something he was having trouble understanding? I don’t want to speak for him, I just guess. I think maybe that’s where there was a disconnect. in reality, there hasn’t been a huge transformation in the team. Our team will continue to invest and develop young players over the next one, two, three years, so that we can surround Jonathan with a better supporting cast to take some of the burden on his shoulders. Because it’s hard for a few guys to carry this load. ”
Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith – who helped the team win three Stanley Cups between 2010-2015 – are under contract until 2022-2023. Brent Seabrook, who is also a core part of the Championship, is on the books until 2023-24. The four players do not have a movement clause.
Bowman said he never asked the players to give up their trade protection and did not approach him to say they were not happy with the direction of the team and that they wanted to find a new situation.
“This is not the approach we expect to take,” Bowman said. “I don’t know if it’s going to happen later, I guess we’ll tackle this if it does. But so far, I haven’t had a feeling from any of them that it was their desire. ”
The general manager said it was an organizational decision to send the letter to fans on Tuesday, in the hopes it might help fans better understand what they are seeing on the ice – especially the inevitable ongoing bumps. road, with young players in difficulty entering. and leave the line and be demoted to minors.
Bowman believes this summer’s playoff experience has been essential for the grassroots youth squad, including Alex DeBrincat, 22, Kirby Dach, 19 and Adam Boqvist, 20. Chicago is expected to introduce several new faces to the roster this season, including 21-year-old defenseman Ian Mitchell (a 2017 second-round pick), defensive-minded 25-year-old forward Lucas Wallmark (a signing free agent) and 24-year-old winger Pius Suter (the reigning Swiss League scorer). Bowman is extremely high on 25-year-old defenseman Nikita Zadorov, acquired from Colorado in Saad trading.
According to Bowman, Zadorov is a player Chicago had previously coveted, but was told he was unavailable. Zadorov, who has 356 games of NHL experience, is a 6-foot-5 physical defenseman who Bowman says would pair well with two of Chicago’s top prospects – Adam Boqvist and Ian Mitchell, who are both right-handed, on the smaller side. , and offensively.
The Blackhawks also have a young coach in Jeremy Colliton, 35, who took over from Joel Quenneville in 2018.
“I think Jeremy is a very important part of all of this,” Bowman said. “His strength as a coach is that element – developing young players, taking raw materials and molding them into pieces. ”
Colliton is entering the final year of a three-year contract, but Bowman said the team are “very likely” looking to extend the coach ahead of the season.
Still, Bowman understands that change can be difficult – both for his team’s veterans and for the fan base.
The Blackhawks let Crawford, who had been the starting goaltender for a decade, walk in free will. Crawford signed a two-year, $ 7.8 million contract with the Devils and told reporters he was “devastated” when the Blackhawks said they were going in a different direction. Instead, Chicago relies on a trio of youngsters who were already at home – Colin Delia, Kevin Lankinen and Malcolm Subban, who started 76 combined games in the NHL.
The Blackhawks were adamant about only offering Crawford a one-year contract.
“One year has been important because Corey won’t be the keeper of the future for us, he was a short-term fix,” Bowman said. “While we were talking about it, [Crawford’s agent] was like, it’s not that interesting to us. It wasn’t really an adversarial conversation. The more we talked about it, the more important the term was to us. We have these three young goalies who are all about the same age as Corey when he came into the league. It was really the flexibility of a one-year contract that was important to us, just as a two-year contract was important to Corey. There is nothing more than that. There are no side stories, backstories or issues with it. It just didn’t work. ”
Saad, 27, was entering the final year of his contract, worth $ 6 million per season. The Blackhawks traded Saad to the division rival Avalanche as part of a four-player package.
“He’s been a great Blackhawk twice,” Bowman said. “He has no maintenance. He is reliable, he is constant. But as we look forward to it, we are probably not going to allocate this money to this position. We weren’t going to re-sign Brandon next summer. You could just use it. all year round and let it go at the end of the year, [but] it’s not very good asset management. We could either keep it and trade it during the season or deadline, but there are risks involved in that. ”
Chicago typically spends up to the salary cap, and Bowman said he had not received any decrees from the property regarding spending cuts when transitioning to a younger roster. That said, Bowman said he hopes to get the team’s payroll and cap situation “in a better place” with “more cushion.”
“I want the flexibility so that we can bring in a good player in their twenties, who is signed but who is making too much money for this team,” Bowman said. “We can rush in and say, ‘We can get it out of your hands for relatively nothing.’ We’re not really in that fashion yet, but it’s the motivation to work differently on our cap. It’s not because Rocky [Wirtz] does not want to spend money. We were one end of the deal, offloading good players, getting little in return. I would love to take advantage of the other teams. This will accelerate our progress to become a top team again. “