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Paul Sullivan: With the futures of Toews and Kane in flux, Blackhawks' rebuild is 'draining' -- and has only just begun

Paul Sullivan, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Hockey

CHICAGO — Jonathan Toews had an apt description of the Chicago Blackhawks rebuild during a recent interview with The Athletic.

“Really, really draining,” he said. “And exhausting.”

Truer words couldn’t be spoken, and the rebuild has only just begun. They don’t call him Captain Serious for nothing. Imagine how Toews will feel by the end of March, when the only goal remaining will be securing the top pick in the 2023 draft.

It’s hard to fathom how long it might take for the Hawks to get back to contending status, but Toews is unlikely to be around when — or if — it happens.

“At the end of the day, we’re talking about a five-plus-year process, according to (general manager Kyle Davidson),” he said. “So that part of it doesn’t sound appealing to me at all.”

Nevertheless, Toews is still a Blackhawk, and with a full no-movement clause he can decide whether to leave or stay if Davidson decides to shop him. Ditto for Patrick Kane, who like Toews will enter the final year of an eight-year deal.

 

The difference is that Kane has much higher trade value than his friend and teammate and theoretically would have more options. Toews said he “can’t speak for Kaner,” who reportedly is undecided about whether to give the Hawks the go-ahead to find a team he’s comfortable playing for and execute a deal. Kane has yet to publicly comment on his desires.

Having suffered more black eyes than Mike Tyson’s old sparring partners, the Hawks might be reluctant to part with Kane or Toews, the only real drawing cards remaining. The Hawks already have suffered immense backlash from the short-sighted decision to let analyst Eddie Olczyk leave following a contract ploy that blew up in their face.

And because Toews regressed a bit last season following a year off for what was termed chronic immune response syndrome, it might not be worthwhile to deal him until he shows he can rebound.

If the Hawks trade only Kane this offseason, Toews would be asked to be the lone face of the organization after the two shared those responsibilities their entire careers. Like Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, Toews would be part of one of those “long goodbye” seasons that are never easy for players or fans to go through.

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