Projecting the Blackhawks’ forward group for next season

The Blackhawks’ forward group will look different next season, but Nick Foligno and Philipp Kurashev should remain part of it.

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The Blackhawks’ defensive lineup next season doesn’t look like it will be too different than this season, nor too difficult to guess. Veteran stalwarts Seth Jones and Connor Murphy will continue anchoring a youth-laden group.

The Hawks’ forward lineup, on the other hand, appears destined to change significantly after this season.

With 12 of the 19 forwards currently in the NHL-roster mix on contracts expiring this summer, general manager Kyle Davidson will have tons of flexibility to reshape how things look up front, both by making room for prospects and by being active in free agency.

Here’s a rough projection of who might comprise the Hawks’ 2024-25 forward group:

Six or seven returning players

Connor Bedard, Nick Foligno, Jason Dickinson, Philipp Kurashev, Ryan Donato, Taylor Hall and Andreas Athanasiou are the seven forwards signed at least through next season.

The first four are locks to stick around. Bedard is the team’s best player, Kurashev and Dickinson will both set career highs in points this season and Foligno might officially receive the captain title next season.

The latter three most likely will stick around, too. Donato hasn’t exactly been a difference-maker for the Hawks this season, but his 23-point pace isn’t far off his 27 points last season in Seattle. Hall and Athanasiou have combined to play just 21 games because of injury, but if they’re healthy next season, they’ll be in the lineup.

Two or three re-signed players

Out of the Hawks’ 12 pending free-agent forwards, five are unrestricted (Tyler Johnson, Colin Blackwell, Anthony Beauvillier, Rem Pitlick and Zach Sanford) and seven are restricted (Lukas Reichel, MacKenzie Entwistle, Reese Johnson, Joey Anderson, Boris Katchouk, Taylor Raddysh and Cole Guttman).

Reichel is the only one who absolutely will be re-signed, even if he doesn’t turn his season around during the final 30 games. But Anderson, Raddysh, Guttman and Blackwell are each possibilities to get re-signed — with varying degrees of likelihood — and a few others have outside chances.

Anderson and Blackwell have found success on Dickinson’s checking line recently. Raddysh scored 20 goals last season and has been used on the first line recently (albeit without producing), and Guttman is in only his second pro season (although he has been in coach Luke Richardson’s doghouse lately). It’s unlikely all four get re-signed, though.

Two or three prospects

The NHL debut of Frank Nazar, the Hawks’ current No. 1 prospect, will likely come late this season; that’s one thing fans should look forward to down the stretch. If he plays well in training camp next season, he could immediately take over a top-six role.

Colton Dach and Landon Slaggert will be given opportunities to earn opening-day NHL jobs next season, too, although they project long-term more like versatile third-line guys.

Two or three new additions

Davidson will not even flirt with the Sam Reinharts or Jake Guentzels of the world during this free-agency cycle. His eyes will look further down the board, trying to nab a couple guys in the same mold as Foligno, Athanasiou and Max Domi — decent offensive contributors who will accept two-year contracts.

Luckily for Davidson, there are a ton of pending UFAs potentially in that bucket: Sean Monahan, Adam Henrique, Tyler Toffoli, Chandler Stephenson, Jordan Eberle, Jake DeBrusk, Alexander Wennberg, Tyler Bertuzzi, Daniel Sprong and on and on. There are also a few familiar faces like Sam Lafferty, Teuvo Teravainen and Domi himself.

Some of those guys will re-sign with their current teams before July and others will only consider contenders, but Davidson should interest a couple of teams with the right offers.

Davidson has also demonstrated an affinity for taking on other teams’ bad contracts and nurturing them into decent assets, a la Dickinson. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Hawks made another trade like that this spring or summer.

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