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Three Thoughts After Kyle Davidson Has Quite the Day

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On the final game of the season, Nick Foligno put it out there bluntly as the Blackhawks fell after being unable to close out yet another game with a lead in the 2023-24 season. His assessment captured in the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Thompson’s tweet:

Kyle Davidson sure as hell did that Monday. He signed so many players that just when you thought he was done, another name would pop up in an alert. Tyler Bertuzzi followed by Alec Martinez, then Craig Smith, and a slew of guys that went like this: Teuvo Teravainen, Lareunt Brossoit, Pat Maroon, and TJ Brodie. Oh, and Joey Anderson was re-signed, too.

Eight transactions with seven brand new players. Suddenly, everything Foligno said rang true. So long Taylor Raddysh, he’s in Washington now. Tyler Johnson? Yet to sign with another team. Colin Blackwell? Nothing there either–and he was one of the guys who gave every ounce every night.

Davidson set out to change things. He did that–and more. So now there’s a couple other thoughts that go with it, too.

The Top Six is Improved As Is the Rest of the Lineup

Signing Bertuzzi and Teravainen secures a top six that should be humming more. Between the two of them, that’s an additional 46 goals. How would I pencil in the top six? Here’s a way too early guess:

Teravainen – Bedard – Kurashev
Hall – Dickinson – Bertuzzi

For those saying Bertuzzi should be on the top line, I can say that seeing him shift between the lines certainly is a possibility. But I see him more on the top power play line, a net front presence who will see the lionshare of his goals there instead of 5v5. Prior to a back injury in 2021 during the Covid shortened season, Bertuzzi was an absolute beast before his season was shelved. He’s also incredibly streaky and I don’t see him sticking on the top line.

Taylor Hall was forgotten today in the shuffle of things and he too, along with Tervainen is interchangable. But the difference here is that these shifts don’t lower the chances for goals. If anything, they finally have some options all over the place to score.

So how about the bottom six?

Reichel – Nazar – Athanasiou
Foligno – Donato – Mikheyev

This list though still has three missing forwards in Joey Anderson, Patrick Maroon, and Craig Smith. I think Nazar makes it where the Hawks don’t want to send him back–but they may do it anyway for developmental purposes. As in–go dominate the AHL and make it where we have no choice but to play you full time here.

With the other three sitting, they can easily be in the lineup to make up a fourth line, which would also bring Mikheyev to the third line. It could also be argued that he and Athanasiou–if Nazar remains-could shift back and forth because man–that third line regardless of who’s on the wing would be fast. 

Defensively? Well, that’s trickier:

Vlasic – Jones
Korchinski – Murphy
Martinez – Brodie

Kaiser rotates in as the seventh defenseman. But maybe there’s another plan, too, to overripen some of the young talent to make sure they’re really ready. It’s likelier that lines aren’t even possible to predict because the surface hasn’t even been scratched yet.

Rockford Could Be Absolutely Stacked Next Season With Young Talent

The short answer here is yes. Of the 12 names on the forward lines above, only Bedard and Nazar are of that young core. Reichel has shown flashes near the end of last season, but this is a year to really take the next step with more talent around him to be considered a core player. But think about what Rockford could look like if everyone who can be there is. This might even include Anderson, who while older than the “kids” by a few years, still is a good presence.

Luke Richardson said this today when he addressed the media.

“As good and as happy as we are to have all these young prospects, you never really know who’s going to make it through and be a stabilizer and be here for a long time,” Richardson said.  “So we’ve got to have a look at everybody and see where their progression goes and their development . But Landon [Slaggert] had a great start at the end of the year, and same as Frank, and I think Kais [Wyatt Kaiser] had it the year before. I think what we want to do is just let the chips fall where they fall, but give them a proper opportunity to develop. I think last year, at one point, instead of using Rockford, Rockford was probably using us. We had everybody up here.”

To imagine what Rockford could look like with that stable of talent–perhaps the happiest person at that thought is IceHogs bench boss Anders Sorensen–along with Kyle Davidson, too.

Kyle Davidson May Not Be Done Yet, Either

There’s a logjam and it’s there on the blue line, too. Financially, the Blackhawks plopped down money in this fashion:

Bertuzzi – $5.5M (x4)
Teravainen – $5.4M (x3)
Martinez – $4M
Brodie – $3.75M (x2)
Brossoit – $3.3M (x2)
Maroon – $1.3M (x1)
Smith – $1M (x1)
Anderson – $800k (x2)

In a day, Davidson spent $25.05M of the team’s cap space. But not everything is as it appears–even though it looks like he took Danny Wirtz’s credit card and went bananas in free agency.

The term matters because no one outside Bertuzzi exceeded three years. Beyond that, other contracts (Athanasiou, Martinez and Donato) come off the books. That’s $10.25M right there. So does Hall–another $6M. There’s $16M and change.

These are not long term deals–and they also pump some much needed talent into the lineup. It will also allow for players to come along as they should instead of it being a panic “oh God I hope they’re ok” move when injuries or bad play forces a hand.

Even with all of this, I don’t think he’s done. Likely, a trade to alleviate some of the pressure, and give a little more breathing room both in the cap and the roster.

Regardless, Kyle Davidson is a man of his word–he absolutely changed things up and did it in day one.

Now let’s see what comes next.

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