The Blackhawks’ player exodus continued with fervor Monday.
Forwards Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik did not receive qualifying offers before the deadline, as had long been expected, making them unrestricted free agents come Wednesday.
Of all of the Hawks’ potential restricted free agents, only forward Philipp Kurashev and defenseman Caleb Jones did receive qualifying offers. AHL forwards Andrei Altybarmakyan and Cam Morrison, defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk and goalie Cale Morris were not given qualifying offers.
Kurashev, still only 22, could potentially be deployed as a top-six winger on next year’s Hawks team, given the total lack of talent remaining up front. Jones, 25, will presumably stick around for another season with his far-more-famous brother, Seth.
Kalynuk showed some promise in his 2021 rookie season, but he is already 25 and the Hawks do have a number of other defensive prospects similar to him. Altybarmakyan, a 2017 third-round pick, had been moderately productive in his two AHL seasons. Morrison and Morris were never relevant from an NHL perspective.
The Hawks not qualifying Strome and Kubalik will be the Monday decision analyzed the most for the longest time, though.
Both players are younger than 27 and can be very impactful scorers when playing well. The Hawks did try to trade them for assets at both the deadline and draft, but nothing ever materialized. General manager Kyle Davidson’s unwillingness to even consider bringing either of them back, however, is a clear sign that tanking is the No. 1 goal for next season.
Meanwhile on Monday, the Hawks also began buyouts for forwards Henrik Borgstrom and Brett Connolly.
Those moves continue Davidson’s rapid shift away from ex-GM Stan Bowman’s reclamation projects and waive a white flag on Bowman’s ill-advised 2021 trade that acquired Borgstrom and Riley Stillman from the Panthers in exchange for Lucas Carlsson, Lucas Wallmark and taking Connolly’s contract.
But Borgstrom, the centerpiece, never did much of anything with the Hawks, tallying just seven points in 52 games. The Hawks could’ve buried his contract in the AHL next season to eliminate the cap hit, but instead wanted him gone altogether.
Borgstrom’s buyout will inflict the Hawks an $83,000 cap hit in 2022-23 and $183,000 cap hit in 2023-24. Connolly’s buyout will give the Hawks a $1.17 million cap hit each of the two seasons.