Daily Roundup: Chicago Blackhawks turmoil, Jake Virtanen and Connor Brown avoid arbitration, and more

Updated: October 22, 2020 at 2:16 pm by Cam Lewis

Welcome to Daily Faceoff’s daily NHL roundup where we bring you the NHL’s most important news and rumours every day. 

Blackhawks veterans rattled by team’s rebuild

Despite winning their play-in round series against the Edmonton Oilers this summer, Blackhawks’ general manager Stan Bowman has his eyes set on the long-term. He dealt Brandon Saad to the Colorado Avalanche and opted not to re-sign goaltender Corey Crawford, sparking frustration among Chicago’s veteran core.

“Bottom line is, I want to win,” Jonathan Toews told The Athletic ealier this month. “The expectation for the other leaders on this team and myself is to come ready to training camp every year to be a playoff team. We prepare ourselves to win a Cup for our fans. I’ve never been told that we were going through a rebuild. That has never been communicated to me, for that matter. A lot of this comes as a shock because it’s a completely different direction than we expected.”

It isn’t very often you see Jonathan Toews speak critically of the organization. He’s a quiet leader and a Blackhawks lifer. The captain outwardly showing frustration about the organization’s direction is certainly interesting and could potentially be telling about turmoil between players and management.

This week, Bowman did a whirlwind media tour in which he tried to show some transparency about what the team’s plan is, which he claims hasn’t changed at all over the past few years.

“I’ve tried to explain to them that what we’re doing now is not different than what we’ve been doing,” Bowman said. “If you look back, this isn’t really a change. The biggest change is that we’re being more open and transparent about it. We’re trying to build up a better depth so that we can surround those players with better players so that they don’t have to carry as much of the load as they’ve had to carry.”

While Bowman stresses that none of the team’s veteran core — Toews, Patrick Kane, or Duncan Keith — has requested to be moved out of Chicago in order to play for a more competitive team, it’s certainly something to keep an eye on. It’s difficult to imagine Toews ever leaving Chicago, but you never know with the other two.

Keith is now 37 years old. He has three years left on his deal worth $5,538,462 so if he’s going to get a crack to win again elsewhere, he’ll have to be traded. Toews and Kane’s matching deals worth $10,500,000 also have three years left on them. Again, it’s hard to imagine Toews going anywhere, but the Hawks could potentially look to move Kane before that deal comes to an end. There’s always been speculation that Kane would like to play a year or two in Buffalo, his hometown.

Nothing is imminent, but it’s something to think about.

Jake Virtanen and Connor Brown avoid arbitration

Over in Vancouver, the Canucks and Jake Virtanen have avoided arbitration, coming to terms on a two-year deal worth $2,550,000 annually.

That’s a hefty raise for Virtanen after putting together a breakout 18-goal season in the COVID-shortened 2019-20 season. Now that Tyler Toffoli is gone, Virtanen will likely be expected to fill in a top-six role on the Canucks, perhaps on the team’s top line with Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller.

Also, in Ottawa, the Senators and Connor Brown avoided arbitration by reaching a three-year deal worth $3,600,000 annually.

Moved from Toronto to Ottawa as part of a multi-player deal involving Nikita Zaitsev and Cody Ceci, Brown had a very strong debut as a Sen. He recorded a career-high 43 points over 71 games, which was second on the team behind only Brady Tkachuk. Keeping Brown around (along with signing players like Evgenii Dadonov) indicates that Ottawa is getting ready to start climbing out of the tanking phase of their rebuild.