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Connor Bedard, trade deadline, and other takeaways from Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson's midseason check-in

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Chicago Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson spoke to the media during the first intermission of Saturday's game against the Dallas Stars for a midseason check-in.

Davidson addressed a variety of topics, so let's dive into the most notable items:

Connor Bedard's recovery

Bedard underwent surgery on Monday to repair his fractured jaw. He was put on a 6-8-week timetable, but Bedard was spotted at the United Center on Saturday and is already lobbying to skate. The Blackhawks will obviously make sure he doesn't rush anything.

"I’m sure he’ll be pushing the envelope," Davidson said. "I think he also understands it’s not something to mess with and he doesn’t want to force it too soon and then to miss more time. And that’s not going to be good for anyone, so he won’t want to do that. We’ll make sure he’s put in a good spot and understands the process of healing and being able to take contact and those sorts of things. 

"I’m sure he’ll feel great physically, but taking contact is a whole different animal, especially when it’s bones that are recovering. You need to give that adequate time, so I think he’ll understand that."

The decision to re-sign Nick Foligno

The Blackhawks agreed to terms with Foligno on a two-year extension at a cap hit of $4.5 million. This seemed like a no-brainer for the Blackhawks.

"It was a pretty easy decision on my side," Davidson said. "I think he’s been invaluable for our team, the young players, the older players and just a great leader, great person. Honestly, his play has been really good as well, so keeping him around for two years is really important to make sure he feels more invested, that we believe in what he’s bringing to the table and I think it worked out for both sides."

The captaincy moving forward

The Blackhawks announced on Day 1 of training camp that they would not name a captain for the 2023-24 season. That hasn't changed, but it will be a conversation in the summer for next year and beyond.

The topic popped back up after Foligno signed an extension, and it seems like he would be the perfect bridge captain before the 'C' is inevitably slapped on Bedard's chest.

"I think it’s just something that’s going to be an ongoing discussion," Davidson said. "In the summer, we decided we would not have a captain this year. I think that’ll be something we revisit until we decide to give someone the captaincy. But it’s offseason discussions."

Will the Blackhawks be active or quiet at the trade deadline?

The Blackhawks made nine trades leading up to the deadline last season, which included some higher-profile names. Don't expect too much activity this season.

"We were fairly active last year," Davidson said. "I don’t necessarily know if we’ll be as active and as busy this year but again, just given where we’re at, we have to listen to everything and we have to consider everything. But I think just based on where we’re at, probably be a little less busy this time around."

Jason Dickinson and Petr Mrazek: To trade or to re-sign?

The two biggest trade chips the Blackhawks might have this season is Dickinson and Mrazek, both of whom have been excellent. Should Davidson capitalize on their value by trading them for future assets or look to keep them beyond the deadline and potentially explore an extension instead?

Davidson's decision will likely depend on what the market says they're worth.

"It’s a constant balance and something you’re trying to strike," Davidson said. "On one side, yes, they’re playing very well and potentially could be valuable. And the other side, you’re trying to balance a little continuity. If we were to move them, those are probably players we’ll be looking at in the summer, so do you just want to cut out the middle term and just have them back? That’s what we’re going through right now.

"You’re right, both have been excellent. They’re great pros as well. We’re always looking for people with that good leadership quality and professionalism. They both have that. They’re making that decision difficult on us."

Alex Vlasic's growth and next contract

Vlasic has been one of the most consistent players on the Blackhawks this season. He's been labeled a shutdown defenseman since he was drafted, but Vlasic has taken significant strides to round out his all-around game and perhaps has more offensive potential than originally believed.

"Alex has been dynamite," Davidson said. "We put him a lot of different situations last year in Rockford, including power play, to develop some of those puck touches at the pro level and make sure he’s comfortable with the puck. He’s stepped up and he’s had a hell of a year. Really happy with his progression. He’s been rock solid."

Vlasic is set to become a restricted free agent at the end of the season. He's eligible for arbitration, too. It wouldn't be the worst idea for the Blackhawks to try locking him up on a longer-term contract instead of a bridge deal, but only if the price is right and the team is convinced he's a core player moving forward.

"You definitely weight it, for sure," Davidson said. "You want to be sure, though, right? The salary cap is pretty unforgiving, so if you’re going to go long, long term, you want to make sure that you’re giving the contract that’s going to work out and not hamstring you anywhere and hold you back. But he’s had a great season and given us a lot of confidence in what he’s going to be moving forward."

Kyle's scouting trip

Davidson recently came back from the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship in Sweden, and he's been on the road for scouting trips "quite a bit." He's prepping for both the 2024 NHL Draft but also to evaluate his own pipeline.

"I feel like I’ve seen, outside of the Russian players, which are just, we can’t see right now, I’ve probably seen most of the top 15-20 draft prospects, starting in the summer and working through World Juniors, watching our players and draft-eligible players," Davidson said. "It’s something I really enjoy. I think it’s important as well for our staff that I’m out there with them and making sure they see that I’m right there alongside trying to get the answers as much as them. So, yeah lots of time on the road. Probably more time on the road up ahead."

Davidson highlighted Frank Nazar — Chicago's No. 13 overall pick in 2022 — as someone who caught his eye. The two sides haven't talked too much yet about whether or not Nazar will make the jump to the pros from college at the end of the season.

"I thought Frank was excellent at World Juniors, taking charge and playmaking and creating offense," Davidson said. "I thought he was fantastic and playing fast and playing aggressive. Again, I think he was one of the best players in the tournament.

"As far as moving forward, those will be conversations that we’ll have. We don’t have any mapped out definitive plan on what the end of his season looks like or future look like, but I think those are conversations we’ll probably have over the next month or two."

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