Last season, the Chicago Blackhawks were faced with an impossible challenge: The team wanted to tank, but they had two future Hockey Hall of Famers in Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on the roster. Kane and Toews were in the last years of their contracts and had full no-movement clauses. General Manager Kyle Davidson had conversations with Kane and Toews on the future of the Blackhawks. With their full no-movement clauses, Kane and Toews had earned the right to control their own destinies.
Davidson had given Kane the option of finishing the season with the Blackhawks or Davidson could try to work out a trade to the team of his choice. Kane decided to be traded and requested the New York Rangers be the destination. The Blackhawks traded Kane to the Rangers on Feb. 28, 2023.
At the end of the season, the Blackhawks announced that Toews would not be re-signed to the team. These moves ended the Kane and Toews for with the Blackhawks. Since last season, Kane has been on record that he had not considered returning to the Blackhawks because their rebuilding, while Toews has taken the year off due to his health.
“I don’t know if it’s necessarily putting the past behind us,” Davidson said. “It’s moreso clearing the deck to some extent to allow the organic growth for young players into leadership roles and offer this new era of Blackhawks players the same opportunity that Toews, Kane, (Duncan) Keith, (Brent) Seabrook were all offered when they came into the league.”
“I definitely didn’t feel too comfortable right when I came out of college and signed (in the spring of 2022),” Vlasic said. “Just being in the locker room was weird, I was the youngest guy by far; there weren’t too many guys around my age. I didn’t really feel like I necessarily fit in. But now, with a bunch of young guys, it’s fun. I can talk a little more and be myself, which is always nice.”
Despite all of this, the recurring theme on X (formerly known as Twitter) is that whenever the Blackhawks have any adversity, the solution is bringing back Kane and Toews. While we at The Rink have told people on X multiple times that Kane and Toews are not coming back, these people refuse to believe it and continue to try to push the narrative online.
Kane, Toews and Davidson gave their reasons for not getting the band back together. People continue to refuse to believe in the truth. In case all the other reasons are not enough for you, here is another major reason on why Kane and Toews will not be brought back to the Blackhawks: Neither player is fully healthy.
Before the 2023–24 season, Toews announced that he was “taking some time away from the game this season,” but did not announce his retirement. This is the third time in the last three years Toews has had to step away from the game due to his health. The first time was when Toews missed the entire 2020–21 season due to suffering from a chronic immune response syndrome in addition to suffering from long Covid. Toews played 71 games in 2021–22, recording the lowest point totals of his career.
Last season with the Hawks, Toews only appeared in 53 games due to feeling the effects of chronic immune response syndrome and long Covid. He recorded career lows in goals and points. Toews appeared in his last game with the Hawks on April 13, 2023.
Even if the Blackhawks decided to re-sign Toews, the probability of him being able to play this season or any seasons in the future has to be very slim. So, from a roster construction standpoint, you want players on your roster that you can somewhat count on to dress. If you want a perfect current example of the lack of this certainty, look no further than Taylor Hall’s disastrous season.
In addition to Toews’ health, based on his statements, he clearly did not embrace the type of rebuild the Hawks were going to undertake. Toews was very outspoken on when Brandon Hagel was traded away for draft picks ahead of the 2022 trade deadline. Toews believed, along with many fans, that Hagel was a peak rebuild player.
Despite the comments, Toews and the Blackhawks appear to be on good terms, as his jersey is still being sold at the United Center.
While Toews’ health situation is pretty cut and dry, Kane’s situation a little bit murkier. Before being traded, reports had surfaced that Kane was dealing with a hip injury. In the offseason, Kane had hip resurfacing surgery.
While Kane and his agent are reporting that he is healthy and skating again, there are some troubling reports about the procedure. The hip resurfacing surgery has only been had by three other NHL players. Defenseman Ed Jovanovski had the procedure in 2013; he played in 36 games after the surgery before retiring. Ryan Kesler had the procedure done in 2019 and never played again. The most recent example is Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom had the procedure in 2022 and played in 39 games while rehabbing from the surgery. He has appeared in eight games this season and has now taken an indefinite leave of absence from the team. It is widely believed that Backstrom is done playing hockey.
So, even if Kane comes back this season, there is no guarantee he will be able to play many more NHL games. Despite the uncertainty of his future, Kane has reportedly been interested in signing with the Rangers, Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs. Recently, Larry Brooks of the New York Post ruled out a Kane return to the Rangers, stating the team is not in on the Kane “sweepstakes” this time around, so Kane’s options appear to be dwindling. Despite this, the Blackhawks are still not his radar.
So, I am begging you, please stop saying Kane and Toews should come back or are coming back to the Blackhawks. Both players and the organization have firmly and publicly moved on. It is time for the fans holding on to to false hope to move on as well.