The Blackhawks completed one offseason tasks Wednesday when they made qualifying offers to forwards Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome, which means contract negotiations can continue until that duo is officially under contract. Scott Powers of The Athletic first reported the news.
Kubalik has arbitration rights while Strome does not. Kubalik, who turned 25 in August, finished third in Calder Trophy voting as the NHL’s top rookie after leading all rookies with 30 goals in 68 regular-season games and added eight points (four goals, four assists) in nine postseason contests. Strome, 23, scored 38 points (12 goals, 26 assists) in 58 games and three points (two goals, one assist) in the postseason.
Several other Blackhawks were not given qualifying offers and are set to become unrestricted free agents at 11 a.m. Central time Friday, when the NHL’s free agency period opens. They include forward Drake Caggiula, defenseman Slater Koekkoek. and goaltender Malcolm Subban. The Blackhawks are hopeful to re-sign Subban and haven’t ruled out the possibility of Caggiula or Koekkoek returning either.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean these players won’t be coming back to the Blackhawks. In particular, we’re hopeful that we can get Malcolm signed,” general manager Stan Bowman said Thursday.
Caggiula, 26, was traded to the Blackhawks on Dec. 30, 2018, and appeared 66 games during two seasons with 27 points (14 goals, 13 assists). In each season, Caggiula missed significant time after suffering concussions. He appeared in eight postseason games, scoring one goal with two assists.
Koekkoek, also 26, was acquired by Chicago on Jan. 11, 2019, in the trade that sent Jan Rutta to the Lightning. He had 15 points (two goals, 13 assists) in 64 regular season games for the Blackhawks. During the 2020 postseason, he played in all nine games with one goal and two assists, teaming with Olli Maatta on Chicago’s third defensive pairing that was one of the bright spots for the Blackhawks in the postseason.
Other restricted free agents who did not receive qualifying offers from the Blackhawks include AHL forwards Alexandre Fortin and Jacob Nilsson and defensemen Joni Tuulola and Ian McCoshen.
According to CapFriendly, the Blackhawks now have $70,336,313 committed to 16 players for the 2020-21 NHL season, leaving the team just over $11 million in cap space under the $81.5 million salary cap. That figure does not include the new contracts for Strome and Kubalik and also does not include a goaltender who played in the NHL during the ‘19-20 season.