Monday marked the NHL deadline for teams to make qualifying offers to their restricted free agents, and while the Chicago Blackhawks did extend an offer to defenseman Nikita Zadorov, they did not extend a qualifying offer to forward Pius Suter, potentially paving the way for him to become an unrestricted free agent later this week.
The Blackhawks also extended qualifying offers to forwards Brandon Hagel and Alex Nylander, the team announced Monday. The team did not extend offers to forwards Josh Dickinson, Adam Gaudette and David Kampf.
A short time after that announcement, the Blackhawks revealed that they had agreed to a new one-year contract with Gaudette, which will carry a salary cap hit of just under $1 million.
Perhaps the biggest omission from the list of qualifying offers was that of Suter, who scored 14 goals and had 13 assists in 55 games for the Blackhawks last season. He carried a cap hit of $925,000 last season, but could be in for a bit of a raise thanks to his goal-scoring ability and his positional versatility, playing at both center and wing.
The decision not to extend Suter a qualifying offer doesn’t preclude the Blackhawks from agreeing to a new contract with Suter, but it does mean that he will not go to salary arbitration with the team, and would be free to sign with another club when NHL free agency gets underway later this week.
The other intriguing development was the team’s decision to extend a qualifying offer to Zadorov. The defenseman reported wanted a new contract in excess of $5 million per season, but the team has been hesitant to honor that number, even going so far as to expose Zadorov in the recent NHL expansion draft.
There is still a chance that the Blackhawks could trade Zadorov’s rights, but the decision to extend him a qualifying offer means that the team could potentially be forced to go to salary arbitration with the defenseman if the two sides cannot agree on a new contract.
NHL free agency is set to get underway on Wednesday morning.