What To Do With RFA Alexander Nylander

Part of the Chicago Blackhawks offseason will include evaluating upcoming free agents. In this episode of Blackhawk’s Business, we take a look at Restricted Free Agent (RFA) Forward Alexander Nylander.

There may not be a player more polarizing in the Blackhawks fan base than Alex Nylander. Acquired in exchange for Henri Jokiharju, a promising young defender drafted in the first round by the Blackhawks in 2017, Nylander, himself a former first-round pick, was a physically gifted player unable to do anything for the Buffalo Sabers organization.

Nylander had only played 19 NHL games prior to trading and had accumulated a total of 6 points in those 19 games. He is a decent size (6’1, 192 lbs) and has an impressive combination of hands and shooting skills. Stan Bowman insisted on realizing his talent while helping clear a jam of young right-shot defenders in the Hawks organization.

At the offensive end of the ice, Nylander has solid skills. He went well with a couple of different line combinations and had really nice sections of play paired with sections where he was invisible on the ice. Sounds a lot like his brother William, who plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Due to a 2-year entry-level contract (too few NHL games played), Nylander ended the final year of his ELC with a $ 863K Cap Hit (Per Cap Friendly). A future contract for him based on his performance and injury should his qualification offer be in the range of $ 875,000. He has no entitlement to salary arbitration.

The case for Nylander’s re-signing

I think that can be reduced to one word: Potential. Nylander has tons of offensive skills, and if you could ever get him to put in the full effort on every shift (maybe it would be good for him to see Brandon Hagel?) You could have a player who could flow into the top 6th

Nylander had breakouts where he was an effective goalscorer for whatever the Hawks need. You need to spread the score beyond Kane, DeBrincat, and Kubalik. Having another player who can contribute 20 goals would be a huge boost to the offensive. However, Nylander is nowhere near this level.

After last season’s break, Nylander was one of the bright spots of her training camp before returning to the bladder (story here). He showed speed on the ice, a strong shot and made consistent plays. But even here, when the play-in round began, he was invisible and failed to score a point in 8 games in the Edmonton Bubble.

Arguments for moving Nylander on

Again, one word sums it up: consistency. Or, in this case, a lack of it. Nylander was unable to maintain a consistently good level of play. His performance is that of a 4th row winger, but his overall ability screams top 6.

One of the main drivers of Coach Jeremy Colliton’s system is maximum effort on both ends of the ice. Nylander doesn’t seem to care much about his defensive performance and his offensive zone efforts are inconsistent at best. That won’t get you minutes on this staff and it will continue to hamper any minutes it could earn.

The judgment

In short, I don’t think Nylander will ever figure out how to become a 2-way player. I think the hawks should move away from him. Since this was his second chance, I don’t think he is still tradable after a qualified offer. I would make him an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) by not making him an offer, and if nobody signs him, you know the rest of the league thinks the same way.

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