The Blackhawks have had one of the busiest offseasons in a very long time. That's no hyperbole.
They traded franchise icons Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, whose playing career is over but has three years left on his contract. They also shipped away defenseman Adam Boqvist and a first-round pick in 2022.
They acquired potential Norris Trophy candidate Seth Jones along with his brother Caleb, a two-time Stanley Cup champion in Tyler Johnson, and the reigning Vezina Trophy winner and a future Hall of Famer in Marc-Andre Fleury.
They selected shutdown defenseman Nolan Allan with the No. 32 overall pick, Colton Dach — Kirby's younger brother — in the second round and six others in the 2021 NHL Draft.
They parted ways with Vinnie Hinostroza, David Kampf and Pius Suter. They re-signed Adam Gaudette and are likely to do the same with pending restricted free agents Brandon Hagel and Alex Nylander.
And finally, they brought in top-four defenseman Jake McCabe on a four-year contract and locked up a physical depth forward in Jujhar Khaira on a two-year deal.
Got all that? The Blackhawks have reshaped their roster in a significant way over the last month, and it sure feels like the team sees an opportunity here to speed up the rebuild.
"It was busy," Blackhawks President/GM Stan Bowman said. You have a plan in place, and you don’t know if it’s ever going to all come together. I would say what we’re doing here, it’s all part of a process that was set in motion a couple of years ago. We’ve been trying to position ourselves to have flexibility to be nimble enough to make strategic additions at the right time."
While the moves may look like the Blackhawks have shifted into win-now mode, Bowman says the path hasn't changed after the organization sent a letter to their fanbase in October of 2020 that vowed to be more transparent about the rebuild.
"We still want to build this as we go forward, as we show progress this year and continue to see our young players grow," he said. "If anything, we’re trying to surround those players with stronger players to give our team more confidence that we can grow as a group.
"For sure, when you bring in experienced players who have won Stanley Cups and had success individually, there’s reason for optimism and excitement. This is an extension of our plan from before. We’re not really changing course. What we’re trying to do is surround young players that are here, give them a good foundation and have a strong team on the ice."
The Blackhawks already had a strong foundation with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. It got even stronger with the additions of Fleury, Johnson, Jones and McCabe, not to mention the leadership roles Alex DeBrincat and Connor Murphy have grown into as well.
And it should make for an intriguing 2021-22 season for the Blackhawks, who could be a potential X-factor in the Central Division.
"We’re really trying to continue to build up assets but, at the same time, we want to try to take a step forward and improve as a team," Bowman said. "We believe in our young players that are here, we want to support them as best we can. We think adding a few players like this of experience that are still big contributors and are able to add something to our group, we think that’ll help support our young group as we continue to go forward. Lots of reasons for excitement and optimism."