The Blackhawks entered the first day of NHL free agency Wednesday needing several experienced forwards to fill out their roster.
They did just that by signing three middle-aged, middle-of-the-road guys in Max Domi, Andreas Athanasiou and Colin Blackwell.
Domi and Athanasiou, both wingers, inked identical one-year contracts with $3 million salary-cap hits. Blackwell, a center, signed for two years at $1.2 million per year.
The three of them promptly became the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-highest paid forwards on the Hawks’ books, but they likely won’t be in Chicago for long. It wouldn’t be surprising to see general manager Kyle Davidson try to flip them to contenders for assets at the trade deadline as the Hawks long-term rebuild continues.
Domi, 27, recorded 39 points in 72 games for the Blue Jackets and Hurricanes last season. The son of former NHL enforcer Tie Domi, he has never quite lived up to his draft position (12th overall in 2013) or his 2018-19 breakout season in Montreal (72 points), but he remains a solid middle-six winger.
His fiery competitiveness is his most well-known trait, although he does have some playmaking skill. It’ll be interesting to see him on the same team as Connor Murphy, whom he attacked in a bizarre 2021 in-game incident in Columbus.
Athanasiou, also 27, recorded 40 points in 75 games for the Kings over the last two seasons, missing a large chunk of 2021-22 with an injury. He, too, enjoyed his best career season in 2018-19, when he hit the 30-goal milestone with the Red Wings.
His burning speed is his most well-known trait, checking off the other box — in addition to competitiveness –that Davidson has frequently mentioned as priorities in player evaluation. He’s arguably one of the five fastest players in the NHL.
Blackwell, 29, tallied 20 points in 58 games last season for the Kraken and Maple Leafs, switching teams as part of the blockbuster Mark Giordano trade. A late bloomer who didn’t break into the NHL until 2019, he’s decent on faceoffs –his career faceoff rate is exactly 50% — and experienced with penalty-killing.
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On the goaltending side, the Hawks signed Alex Stalock to a one-year contract with $750,000 cap hit. It’s unclear if he’ll enter next season as the backup to Petr Mrazek or if another goalie addition is incoming.
Stalock, 34, struggled mightily last season, posting an .869 save percentage in 17 AHL appearances and .786 save percentage in one NHL game for the Sharks, after missing the 2021 season with myocarditis. He’d previously been a solid backup, going 36-29-11 with a .908 save percentage for the Wild from 2017 to 2020.
The Hawks also inked minor-league forwards Luke Philp and Brett Seney to one-year, two-way contracts worth $750,000 each.
Philp and Seney each scored more than 40 points in the AHL last year and will help support Hawks prospects with the Rockford IceHogs. Seney, with 55 games of previous NHL experience, could be an injury-related call-up if necessary.
Elsewhere around the NHL, Dominik Kubalik signed a two-year contract with the Red Wings at $2.5 million per year –significantly less than the $4 million qualifying offer the Hawks would’ve had to give him to retain his rights.
Collin Delia and Wyatt Kalynuk both signed with the Canucks, and Erik Gustafsson and Henrik Borgstrom both landed on the Capitals. Dylan Strome, Calvin de Haan and Kevin Lankinen haven’t yet found new teams.
Wednesday’s moves leave the Hawks with an estimated $10.6 million in remaining salary cap space with restricted free agents Philipp Kurashev and Caleb Jones left to re-sign.
The Hawks have considered taking on another team’s bad contract to receive a “sweetener” asset, and that remains a possibility even though the Flyers –previously seen as the best match — declared themselves finished for the summer.