Chicago Blackhawks: Rebuild could lead to end of Toews and Kane era

Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The end of the Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane era could be coming soon for the Chicago Blackhawks.

It’s been five long years since the Chicago Blackhawks have won a Stanley Cup. Or even a series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (no, the play in round doesn’t count). Yet the Blackhawks didn’t mention the dread r-word “rebuild”. That is, until today.

The Blackhawks released a message to their fans, officially announcing their rebuild as they want to be committed to developing young players and rebuilding their roster.

The writing has been on the wall for a while now. Why else would the Blackhawks have traded Brandon Saad, who is someone their core players deeply respect and even wanted back after he was traded in 2015? Or let veteran goaltender Corey Crawford, who has backstopped the team to two Stanley Cups while showing little signs of a decline? Why did they not tender qualifying offers to Slater Koekkoek or Drake Caggiula, two perfectly capable NHLers? Because they’re rebuilding.

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Obviously, this isn’t going to sit well with fans. Any time the word “rebuild” is tossed around, eyes begin to roll. And rightfully so. But as hard as the fans are taking it, one has to imagine Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith are taking it much harder.

End of an era?

Since the 2007-08 season began, the Blackhawks have been led by a trio of future Hall of Famers – Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith. The supporting cast around them has changed, but those three players have been their constant. Each of them has three Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe to their name.

You know what each of them also has on their contract? A no movement clause. What this means is they aren’t going anywhere unless they want to be traded. With the rebuild underway, it wouldn’t be surprising if at least one of them wants to go.

Kane and Keith have been largely silent recently. However, “Captain Serious” Toews has been the vocal leader of the Blackhawks for years. He was their captain even before he had the “C” stitched on the front of his jersey. Toews isn’t too happy about the direction of the franchise.

In a recent interview with The Athletic, Toews had this to say. “I’ve never been told that we were going through a rebuild… that has never been communicated to me, for that matter.” But in a recent interview with ESPN, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman contradicted what Toews said.

"“I think what’s assumed in that comment is a little bit of misunderstanding because I have talked to Jonathan since then; I’ve talked to all the veterans,” Bowman said. “I’ve tried to explain that the direction of the team — we’re on the same path that we were on last year. There’s really no change in direction."

This suggests there could be some issues between the players, namely Toews and their core players, and the front office. It’s sort of a “he said, she said” situation, but what’s painfully obvious is neither side is too happy with the other right now.

Toews is a competitive person who wants to win. He’s not the type who’s going to want to stick around for a full rebuild. Kane and Keith are the same way. All three of their core players are aging and probably don’t want to be stuck in a rebuild for the rest of their careers.

Also, keep in mind having Keith, Toews, and Kane on the roster is probably not the best thing for a rebuild. Between those three players, the Blackhawks are committing a shade under $27 million per year through the 2022-23 season. $10.5 million a year each for Toews and Kane, $5.538462 million a year for Keith.

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The Blackhawks are starting a long overdue rebuild. It’s the beginning of a new era for the Hawks. But it might mean the end of another.