Blackhawks have ‘healthy’ conversation with Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews as offseason quiets down

Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson admitted Thursday he wished he’d been able to watch the prospects at development camp closer. But he has been a busy man.

Davidson met with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews earlier this week, updating them on the Hawks’ plans after shockingly trading away Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach and walking away from Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik, and had some “healthy, open communication.”

Davidson had previously told Kane and Toews there were “some difficult decisions to come this summer,” but hadn’t given specifics. This meeting assuredly took on a different tone, although Davidson was coy about the two longtime veterans’ reactions.

“I felt the meeting went well and [included] open dialogue both ways,” he said. “It was a healthy process. So they’re both here, and [I’m] chatting with them and keeping that communication open.”

Davidson later said it was “hard to handicap” whether Kane or Toews will eventually request trades.

“It’s all so fresh,” he said. “The draft just happened. A couple trades just happened. Free agency was yesterday. So it’s pretty early in that process. I don’t think I have a fully formed opinion on that one, one way or another, right now.”

Pat Brisson, who represents both Kane and Toews as well as Seth Jones — whom Davidson also met with this week –told TSN’s Pierre LeBrun on Wednesday that the two stars aren’t “necessarily in agreement with the direction the team is taking” but are patiently taking their time making decisions. Toews was skating Wednesday at Fifth Third Arena with a smile on his face.

Davidson did essentially shoot down the concept of going to Kane or Toews for input on transactions to make, even though Kane had lightly suggested interest in having that kind of voice during late-season interviews.

“It’s a tougher conversation at our stage right now, because there’s a lot of future aspects to [rebuilding] that active players might not be fully informed on,” Davidson said. “They just don’t like things like draft class, draft pick valuation, prospect values.”

The Hawks’ Wednesday free-agency additions of Andreas Athanasiou, Max Domi and Colin Blackwell will at least provide Kane and Toews with semi-adequate linemates if they stick around for 2022-23.

Davidson said Domi would fill a top-six role and accurately called Athanasiou “one of the faster players in our league.” The Hawks are widely expected to try to flip both guys for draft picks at the draft deadline next spring, and Davidson alluded to their signings keeping “flexibility open for us.”

Alex Stalock, despite playing in just one NHL game since the start of the pandemic, will indeed enter the season as the Hawks’ backup goalie behind Petr Mrazek, Davidson said. Negotiations with Kevin Lankinen, who still hasn’t signed anywhere, “didn’t work out.”

Brett Connolly and Henrik Borgstrom were bought out because they weren’t going to be in the NHL next season, and Davidson wanted to “cut to the chase” and “allow them the opportunity to find other chances elsewhere” rather than deal with them being disgruntled in-season.

The Hawks did bring back former forward Dylan Sikura, now 27, with a one-year, two-way contract signed Thursday. He’s likely Rockford-bound after playing mostly in the AHL for the Avalanche last season.

Davidson remains “open to anything,” be it taking on another team’s bad contract for assets or adding a little more depth through free agency, but his activity is starting to die down. Ironing out new contracts for restricted free agents Philipp Kurashev and Caleb Jones is next up on the agenda.

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