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What’s next for Jason Dickinson?

Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023-24 season was a career-best for Jason Dickinson.

He played the full 82 games for the first time in his 8-year NHL career, establishing career-highs in goals (22), points (35), average ice time (16:34) and faceoff win percentage (an even 50.0 percent). He was tied with Connor Bedard for the team lead in goals, with a team-high 20 of them coming at even-strength.

For his efforts, Dickinson picked up a two-year contract extension that will keep him around through 2025-26 with an annual salary cap hit of $4.25 million. But what should be expected for the next few seasons from this veteran forward who’ll be turning 29 on July 4?

The necessary context is that Dickinson had a career-best season on the worst team that’s ever put him in a lineup, and revisiting all of the factors associated with that don’t need to happen here again. To Dickinson’s credit, though, he did produce in the ice time he was given, which is something that cannot be said about most of the other players on Chicago’s roster last season. In future seasons, though, it’s likely that players worthy of more ice time than Dickinson will join the fold, and the trick is in figuring out where Dickinson could slot in on playoff-caliber teams, because there’s certainly a useful NHL-level player here.

The number which jumps off the page here is shot percentage. Last season, Dickinson was at 17.5 percent, which is well above his career mark of 10.6. He’s not the first player to enjoy a season-long heater of this variety, but it suggests his goal numbers might be due for regression in the future and future 20-goal seasons don’t seem as likely.

Still, Dickinson made things happen when on the ice and did not have the benefit of profiting from being Bedard’s linemate like others did: of his 1,058 minutes at 5-on-5 last season, only 105:54 saw No. 98 on the ice as well. His top linemates last season were Joey Anderson (523:01) and Colin Blackwell (378:40) — not exactly offensive dynamos, although that trio did skate 263:13 together at 5-on-5 and turn in some strong possession numbers via Natural Stat Trick:

  • 53.43 percent shot attempt share (CF%)
  • 54.91 percent shot share (SF%)
  • 53.23 percent expected goal share (xGF%)
  • 51.72 percent scoring chance share (SCF%)
  • 50 percent high-danger chance share (HDCF%)

And it did all that despite starting in the offensive zone just 43.06 percent of the time. That’ll do.

Anderson is currently a restricted free agent and Blackwell is unrestricted, so their Chicago futures are uncertain. Should both return, that line could certainly be worth a longer look in Chicago’s bottom six next season. If not, players with similar skill sets could be placed on Dickinson’s wings to give Chicago it’s energy/grind/whateveryouwanttocallit line because that seems to be the ideal role for a line with Dickinson centering it in the seasons to come, as defense and forechecking appear to be the portions of the game where Dickinson thrives the most, based on the player card below from Corey Sznajder’s All Three Zones project:

It’s also worth mentioning here that Dickinson skated more PK ice time than any other Blackhawks forward at 169:22. Although that PK ended the season ranked 27th in the league with a 75.76 percent conversation rate, we discussed last month that the PK units were better at limiting opposing shots and chances against than they had been in the past.

The part that will get complicated for Dickinson in the future is related to his contract. For the next two seasons, the $4.25 million cap hit will be necessary to keep the Blackhawks above the salary cap floor. At some point, though, the hope is that the Blackhawks become a good team again and the potential for salary cap ceiling restrictions will likely present themselves. At that time, a bottom-six center — even a potentially excellent one like Dickinson — probably will not fit on the team’s books at a cap hit over $4 million. Dickinson will be into his 30s by then, so perhaps future deals come at a more team-friendly number than where it is now.

But we can worry about that after the Blackhawks return to their winning ways again, because spending too much time on that now moves past much, much larger issues facing this team in the present.

Talking Points