The Blackhawks have some decisions to make this offseason. They need to re-sign a number of critical free agents — goaltender Corey Crawford and forwards Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik — with a flat salary cap.
These players are under the Blackhawks’ control ultimately. There also likely won’t be an offer sheet this summer with a flat cap, so they may not be of the highest priority. Still, figuring out where these players fit will help assemble the puzzle for next season.
Caggiula has scored 14 goals and 27 points in 66 games with Chicago since he was acquired from the Oilers in December 2018.
Those are good numbers for a third-line forward. Still, the Blackhawks have a surplus of those in the AHL. Philipp Kurashev, Dylan Sikura, Pius Suter and even MacKenzie Entwistle could all slide into a roll with the Blackhawks next season.
Caggiula was a liability in the playoffs in terms of possession — he had a 34.16 percent expected goal share despite an 82.35-percent offensive zone start percentage — and put up just three points (one goal, two assists) in eight games.
Evolving-Hockey.com’s projections put Caggiula’s salary at $1.44 million for one year, $1.67 million for two and $2.14 million for three. He was at $1.5 million per season the past two years. A cheap bridge deal could be worth it for the Blackhawks should they deem none of the other young forwards quite ready.
Koekkoek, on the other hand, was far from a playoff liability this season. He was one of the best defensemen for the Blackhawks in the postseason along with Olli Maatta and Connor Murphy. The Blackhawks should be able to re-sign Koekkoek to a cheap bridge deal (perhaps two years at a little north of $1 million AAV) and would be wise to.
Koekkoek also scored three points (one goal, two assists) in the playoffs. He had 3.9 goals above replacement (GAR) and 3.1 expected GAR in the regular season. Koekkoek allowed just five goals against throughout the postseason at five-on-five.
Evolving Hockey’s projections put Koekkoek at $1.55 million for one year, $1.77 million for two and $2.14 million for three. He has signed one-year deals the past three seasons after his entry-level contract that have slightly increased: $800,000 in 2017 and $865K in 2018 with Tampa and $925K in 2019 with Chicago.
The Blackhawks have veteran Brent Seabrook returning from three surgeries (right shoulder/both hips) and top defenseman prospect Ian Mitchell and perhaps Nicolas Beaudin entering their first NHL season. Yet Koekkoek is a serviceable seventh defenseman and has been steady on the bottom pairing. Keeping him should be a priority, and would give prospects more time to develop.
Subban was acquired in the Robin Lehner trade with the Golden Knights in February. He has the most amount of NHL experience among Chicago’s in-house backup goaltender options behind Corey Crawford.
Subban had a .901 save percentage and one shutout in 58 starts across three seasons with Vegas. His value as a backup may not be there especially because he’s better when he’s played recently. That could create scheduling conflict for a backup.
Subban had a .890 save percentage and allowed 10.09 goals above expected in 20 games this season before the trade.
The Blackhawks also have a wealth of potential backup goalies. Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen both had good AHL seasons and — if Crawford accepts the reported one-year, $3.5 million deal the Blackhawks offered — could step into a role behind him. Subban may be moving on to his next destination this offseason and is the likeliest of Chicago’s second-tier RFAs not to see an extension.