Toews and Kane

Brigid Iannelli

The first two names that probably come to mind when the words “Chicago Blackhawks” are mentioned are Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. For over a decade, 19 and 88 have been a defining duo in Chicago sports. However, it has become increasingly likely that at least one of them will be out the door by the conclusion of the 2022-2023 season. 

Both forwards signed matching 10.5 million dollar contracts on July 9, 2014. These deals are set to expire at the end of the current season. 2023 once seemed so far away, but the time is quickly approaching for Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson to make a decision on the future of the team’s star players. The NHL trade deadline is March 3, which is a likely time for at least one of them to be moved. 

So what would the motivation be for the Hawks to make such monumental trades before Kane and Toews’ contracts are up? As it stands, the team has a mere 15 wins in 48 games played. This stat is probably difficult to stomach for those who supported the Blackhawks in their glory days, as it represents a major fall from grace. However, the further down in the standings the Hawks can get before the end of their season in April, the higher of a chance they have at winning the so-called Connor Bedard Sweepstakes: this year’s projected top pick in the NHL draft, 17 year old Connor Bedard, has been described as a “generational talent” by many scouts, and he is a highly coveted addition for the league’s bottom teams. The Blackhawks would be incredibly lucky to have Bedard on their team, as he could potentially reverse the direction of the franchise and significantly shorten the duration of the rebuild. One notable roadblock to drafting Bedard is that, although Kane and Toews’ production is down this season, the team is still noticeably better with them on it. Both players are in the top three for overall team points scored this season (Kane at 34, Toews at 28). Even though finishing last in the NHL standings does not guarantee the first overall pick, it is likely that the Blackhawks without Kane and Toews will be worse than with them, and that is ideal for the draft. An additional motivation is the fact that if the Blackhawks make trades instead of allowing Kane, Toews, or both of them to walk during free agency in the summer, they will likely receive prospects or future draft picks that will help usher the rebuild along.

Of course, Kyle Davidson will not have the final say on if Kane and Toews stay or go. Both players have full no-movement clauses written into their contracts through the end of the season, so if the Blackhawks want to trade them away, they have authority over where they end up. They would have to waive their NMCs before any deal is made. If that does end up happening, Kane and/or Toews would likely request to be traded to a team that is a legitimate Stanley Cup contender – for example, the Boston Bruins, the Carolina Hurricanes, or the Toronto Maple Leafs. Also, because of the success that they have brought to the Hawks since they were drafted in 2006 (Toews) and 2007 (Kane), they have an added level of freedom in their decisions. Essentially, the two single-handedly restored the franchise’s notoriety after a dismal eleven-year period in which it did not make the playoffs, save for a first-round exit in 2002. The Kane and Toews era brought three Stanley Cups (2010, 2013, 2015) to the city of Chicago, so that certainly counts for something once trade talks inevitably ramp up between Davidson and Pat Brisson, their agent. 

There is no guarantee that Chicago’s beloved hockey pair will be split up sometime this year. They may decide to stick around and see where the team goes. If the Hawks do not trade them and still find a way to get Bedard, at least one player may have a renewed sense of excitement and hope for the road ahead. Inevitably, though, and probably sooner rather than later, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews’ time in the city they have called home for nearly two decades will come to an end. Whenever that happens, letting go of one or both core players will be difficult for fans, but it is a necessary step in the difficult business of hockey.