Whether Jonathan Toews chooses to retire remains unknown heading into the Blackhawks’ season finale, but one thing is settled: he won’t play again in Chicago.
“Tonight will be the final game in a Blackhawks jersey for Jonathan Toews because we will not be re-signing him in the summer,” general manager Kyle Davidson told reporters during a Thursday morning news conference at Fifth Third Arena.
Weightier words have rarely been spoken from a Hawks front office boss.
Toews has been one of the faces of the franchise since Toews was drafted third overall in 2006. He was named captain in 2008.
Along with Patrick Kane, who was selected No. 1 overall in 2007, they led the Hawks to Stanley Cup championships in 2010, ‘13 and 15.
Now, with Kane a New York Ranger, the Hawks will mount a campaign without either of them for the first time in more than a decade.
“Words fail to adequately summarize everything that Jonathan’s done for the organization, the amazing memories that he’s provided. He’ll be a Blackhawk forever,” Davidson said. “He’s gonna forever be known as Chicago’s captain.
“He’s one of the greatest players in team history of his generation and some of his milestones and his accomplishments will be extremely difficult to match. Over 1,000 games, almost 900 points, three Stanley Cups, Conn Smythe, Olympic gold medal. He’s done it all and he’s done it all in a Blackhawks jersey.
“We can’t thank him enough for everything he’s done.”
Davidson said he informed Toews about the decision on Saturday, when the Hawks were in Seattle to face the Kraken.
“I can only speak from my side, but it’s incredibly difficult. I feel like every time we’ve (made) a transaction the last little while, it’s me talking about how hard it is,” Davidson said, alluding to trading Kane before the trade deadline in March.
“But it’s true. It’s incredibly hard. Jonathan and I are the same age and I watched his progression … (back to) World Juniors. To take that step and have that conversation was not easy because of all he’s done and the status that he holds. We look forward to watching what he does next and where he might go next and what he does.”
Toews is scheduled to address the media after Thursday night’s gameup against the Philadelphia Flyers at the United Center.
Davidson said the move was necessary for the rebuild and to set the table for the next generation of Hawks.
“It’s more so clearing the deck to allow the organic growth for young players into leadership roles and offer this new era of Blackhawks player — the same opportunity that Toews, Kane, (Duncan) Keith, (Brent) Seabrook were all offered when they came into the league,” he said.
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“When there’s a player like Jonathan or Patrick in your locker room, you defer to them. You just let them handle the leadership and there’s not a lot of development opportunity there. So now we believe that it was something that is beneficial for this next group to allow leaders to emerge, and form that relationship with (coach) Luke Richardson), form that relationship with myself.
“It gives them an opportunity to step up and be the new leadership group of the franchise.”
Toews’ eight-year, $84 million contract he signed with the Hawks on July 9, 2014, expires at the end of the season.
Toews missed the entire 2020-21 season and a two-month stretch this season because of what he has characterized as near-unbearable symptoms from Chronic Immune Response Syndrome and long COVID.
Davidson said health concerns didn’t weigh into his decision.
“This was strictly a decision for what we thought was best for the young players that would come in to step into that role.
It forces some people to step up and experience things that they wouldn’t experience if Jonathan were in the room.”