Chicago Blackhawks UFA targets

Photo Credit: Andrew Fielder for Inside The Rink

With the NHL draft in the books, Artyom Levshunov was drafted second overall to bolster the blue line, as well as six additional forwards and a seventh-round defenseman, the Chicago Blackhawks have added to their rebuilding NHL roster. Youth for the Future is the best way to start off on the right foot for a good future on the ice but also necessary to assist that youth, in veteran leadership within the locker room.

When they drafted Connor Bedard first overall, the Blackhawks added Nick Foligno, Ryan Donato and resigned Andreas Athanasiou to add some veterans to their roster to help Bedard flourish. With their second top-five pick in two years, it’s paramount the Blackhawks bring in veterans to best help Levshunov, as well as the rest of their roster, grow. General Manager Kyle Davidson has (proverbially) money to burn with over $28 million in cap space heading into free agency. Free agency opens July 1, so here’s MY list of good free-agent targets for the Blackhawks:

Steven Stamkos

Despite his age, and his rap sheet for being a one-team guy, Stamkos‘ ability to lead a young core and show what it takes to be atop the league, with two rings in the last five years with the Tampa Bay Lighting, could be just what the Blackhawks need to bring their youth to the top and grow their game, as well as delight Blackhawks’ fans. Stamkos’ 81 points (40-41–81) was third on the Lightning roster, and the former captain’s production helped Tampa Bay make the playoffs for the seventh time in the last seven years, and ninth in the last ten years. Despite being bounced from the playoffs in round one by eventual champion Florida Panthers, Stamkos posted five goals in as many games, with an assist added for six points overall.

Jonathan Marchessault

Marchessault appeared in all 82 games for the Vegas Golden Knights in 2023-24 and led the team in points with 69, goals with 42, and was seventh in assists with 27. An original “misfit” as they were called, Marchessault was added to the Golden Knights in their expansion draft and won a Stanley Cup last year in the franchise’s sixth season. His 25 points in 22 games in those playoffs was second on that roster, with 13 goals (1st) and 12 assists (T-2nd). Marchessault’s game has matured as he has in the last seven seasons, only missing 60 games across those seven seasons. Despite his 33 years of age, Marchessault can not only be a great role model for the youth, but his ability to produce can be important to bolstering the Blackhawks to be partially competitive as they climb back to the top of the league, provided he signs a multi-year deal.

Tyler Toffoli

An NHL journeyman, Toffoli started his career with the Los Angeles Kings from 2012 to 2019-20 when he was traded to Vancouver. Since then, Toffoli has seen four teams in the last five seasons, being a major trade chip at the trade deadline annually. Even if he gets moved by the deadline, the ability for Kyle Davidson to sign him to a one or two-year deal, and get another draft pick to add to the 25 he has in hand in the next three drafts already, could be beneficial to the future of the Blackhawks. Toffoli joined the Winnipeg Jets midseason 2023-24 and logged 11 points in 18 games, before appearing in all five of the Jets’ playoff games against the Colorado Avalanche, before being eliminated in round one. Toffoli’s history during the elite era of the Kings makes him a great piece because he has the experience of being an important piece on a roster building to be atop the league.

Brady Skjei:

The New York Rangers 2012 first-round draft pick just finished up his fourth year of a four-year contract with the Carolina Hurricanes after making the playoffs for all five of those seasons and will hit the free-agent market. 105 points in 302 games isn’t much to write home about, but after being traded in the middle of the 2019-20 season, Skjei helped the Hurricanes make long playoff runs, and constantly contend in the east.

Skjei would be a perfect pickup for the Blackhawks – a veteran defenseman used to making the playoffs and can be a solid defensive core leader with Seth Jones to help out the team that Davidson and the Blackhawks front office want to build. Provided they do make a call, Sjkei could also be a solid piece to add on a long-term deal to keep him around as they end the rebuild and start to mount the league once again, or if they sign him to a one-year deal, and he shines in Chicago, he could draw in severe trade interest as the trade deadline nears.

Honorable Mention

Jakub Vrana

Sure Vrana saw time in Detroit and is now in the Russian leagues, but being a part of the core the Red Wings had at the time he was with them, Vrana has been a part of rebuilds and was a part of the Stanley Cup winning Washington Capitals in 2018.

Nicholas Aube-Kubel

A member of the Colorado Avalanche‘s Stanley Cup team in 2022 and notorious for falling with the Cup and denting it before the team photo, Aube-Kubel has floated around the league since that season, spending time on one-year deals with the Toronto Maple Leafs and most recently the also rebuilding Washington Capitals. The Slave Lake, Alberta native has yet to break the 25-point threshold in his NHL career as part of star-studded rosters but is a solid role-playing forward, suitable for a third or fourth line on a rebuilding team that could find his stride if put into the right system. As part of a young and inexperienced core, the 28-year-old Aube-Kubel has been a part of systems in which he was called up to average ten minutes of ice time in his career, but if part of the Blackhawks system, he could find himself in a role fit to be at almost 20 minutes of ice-time and help to lead a team with a core that’s developed as the Blackhawks hope theirs will.

NHL free agency opens at 11 am CST, 12 pm EST on July 1.

James Mackey

Credentialed Writer Covering the Arizona Coyotes

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