Jonathan Toews said he’s surprised the Chicago Blackhawks are making big changes to their roster with a focus on young players replacing key veterans.
“I’ve never been told that we were going through a rebuild,” the Chicago captain told The Athletic on Saturday. “That has never been communicated to me, for that matter. A lot of this comes as a shock because it’s a completely different direction than we expected.”
Toews’ comments came on the same day forward Brandon Saad was traded to the Colorado Avalanche and one day after goalie Corey Crawford signed a two-year, $7.8 million contract ($3.9 million average annual value) with the New Jersey Devils as a free agent.
Saad, 27, a two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Blackhawks (2013, 2015), was third on Chicago with 21 goals last season. Crawford, 35, also won the Cup in 2013 and 2015.
“It’s sad. It’s really disappointing,” Toews said. “[Crawford] has given so much to this team. I feel he was ready to bring more in the next few years and still be a big part of this group. He had that mindset that he could help this team go deep in the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs again, and there’s no doubt that he could.”
The Blackhawks made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2016-17. They were the No. 12 seed in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers and defeated the No. 5-seeded Edmonton Oilers in four games before losing the best-of-7 Western Conference First Round in five games to the Vegas Golden Knights.
Malcolm Subban, a 26-year-old who agreed to a two-year, $1.7 million contract Friday, is now Chicago’s most experienced goalie with 66 NHL games (60 starts) for the Blackhawks, Golden Knights and Boston Bruins. Collin Delia, 26, has played 18 NHL games (16 starts). Kevin Lankinen, 25, has yet to make his NHL debut.
Though Toews, a 32-year-old center, and Patrick Kane, a right wing who turns 32 on Nov. 19 and led the Blackhawks with 84 points (33 goals, 51 assists) last season, remain focal points offensively, Chicago is also looking to younger forwards to play big roles. Alex DeBrincat, who turns 23 on Dec. 18, scored 41 goals in 2018-19. Dominik Kubalik, 25, agreed to a two-year, $7.4 million contract Friday after he led NHL rookies with 30 goals and finished third in voting for the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year.
Toews, whose eight-year contract signed July 9, 2014, runs through the 2022-23 season, said he has no desire to be traded. He’s scored 815 points (345 goals, 470 assists) in 943 games, all with the Blackhawks, winning the Stanley Cup three times (2010, 2013, 2015).
“I haven’t been a part of that conversation,” he said. “This has all happened pretty suddenly, but the answer is no. Chicago’s my home, and I want to win here again.”