As expected, Alex Nylander will return to the Blackhawks in 2021-22.
The Hawks re-signed Nylander to a one-year contract worth $874,125 on Monday.
Nylander received a qualifying offer July 26 that kept him a restricted free agent without arbitration rights, making it essentially guaranteed the Hawks would eventually re-sign him this summer but removing any urgency in doing so.
The 23-year-old winger missed all of last season recovering from surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee, but general manager Stan Bowman said earlier this summer Nylander had already completely recovered and will be 100% for training camp.
The Hawks will hope Nylander can finally put together his game this coming season, having failed to translate his raw talent into equally impressive results thus far in his NHL career. The former Sabres eighth overall pick tallied a respectable 26 points in 65 games in 2019-20, his one prior season with the Hawks, but struggled with defense and consistency.
“There is still plenty of room for growth in his game,” Bowman said in a statement. “He is just scratching the surface of the type of player we feel he is capable of becoming.
“This will be an important season for him to perform consistently and contribute offensively. His size and skill are a unique combination that make him an intriguing option for our coaching staff to utilize anywhere in the lineup.”
He’ll compete with a crowded forward group for a roster spot come September training camp. Roughly 17 forwards under contract have a legitimate chance to earn the 13 or 14 opening-day jobs up for grabs.
Nylander’s signing also marks the end of the Hawks’ obvious offseason to-do list, with everyone now signed. Moving Andrew Shaw’s contract to long-term injured reserve still must be done to become salary-cap compliant, but that will be only a formality.
One potential move to watch for, as hockey’s summer dog days drag on, is a Malcolm Subban trade. Bowman will likely want to recoup a minor prospect or draft pick for the capable backup goalie — demoted to No. 3 on the Hawks’ depth chart by Marc-Andre Fleury’s arrival — rather than lose him on waivers during camp.