As franchise cornerstones, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews — and their final seasons under contract — suck up so much oxygen in the Chicago Blackhawks’ atmosphere that it’s easy to overlook that, come next season, Alex DeBrincat will play out the end of his deal too.
DeBrincat has one last season at $6.4 million before he becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.
The 40-goal scorer, who doesn’t turn 25 until December, would seem like a no-brainer to negotiate an extension with before he breaks the bank. But a three- to five-year rebuild means nothing is guaranteed about the Hawks’ new formula for constructing a winner.
And much depends on DeBrincat’s appetite for continuing his relationship here.
“I’m open to anything,” said DeBrincat when asked whether he’d be receptive to an extension. “We’ll see what they’re thinking. I think they have a lot of things to do probably before me. But I’m open to talking whenever they are, so we’ll see where it goes.”
For now, he’s focused on finishing the final three games of the season on a high note, then huddling with general manager Kyle Davidson and the Hawks brass about expectations for next season.
“This offseason, I just want to work on everything,” DeBrincat said. “Keep getting a better shot, get footwork up and stuff like that. I think I’ll take a couple days after the season to reflect and see what I need to work on.”
DeBrincat has ruled out playing for the U.S. national team at the IIHF Men’s World Championship in Finland.
“No, not this year,” he said. “I have a kid coming soon so probably not in my cards. Maybe another year.”
The Hawks are coming to a crossroads with team leaders Kane and Toews, who are signed through the end of next season, but have yet to elaborate on their plans or wishes beyond then — provided they don’t want to be traded even sooner.
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DeBrincat said he hasn’t had those discussions with them.
“We’ll talk maybe a little in the future, but that’s kind of their decision. It doesn’t really affect me,” he said. “I’m still young. I want to help bring this team to the playoffs and win. I’m here to do whatever I can and obviously try to help win games.
“If that’s the rebuild next year, hopefully help some of the young guys come in and feel comfortable and (accelerate) that rebuild.”
Since DeBrincat’s rookie season in 2017-18, the Hawks have finished last or second to last in the Central Division every season except last season’s sixth-place finish (of eight), when the NHL modified the divisions and played a 56-game schedule because of COVID-19.
He has played in the postseason in 2019-20 — and that’s because the league expanded the playoff format after the pandemic pause.
The losing gets frustrating, DeBrincat said, “but you’ve got to work for what you get. So hopefully we can work these next couple years, get a good roster and win some games. Anytime you can win games, you have more fun in the locker room, more fun in the year.
“These next couple years, we can build that identity to get back to where we want to be and hopefully it’s sooner than later,” he said.