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ProHockeyTalk’s NHL free agency tracker

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The NHL’s off-season is under way and with free agency beginning July 1 there will be plenty of action this summer. Check back here for all of the trades and signings that teams will be making in hopes of improving their chances at winning the 2018-19 Stanley Cup.

August 14
• The Devils re-sign Steve Santini to a three-year, $4.25 million extension. (Link)

Ryan Ellis, Predators agree to an eight-year, $50 million extension. (Link)

August 13
• Noah Dobson signs his three-year, entry-level deal with the Islanders. (Link)

August 10
Dylan Larkin and the Red Wings agree to a five-year, $30.1 million extension. (Link)

August 9
Christian Dvorak inks a six-year, $26.7 million extension with the Coyotes. (Link)

August 4
William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights avoid arbitration with one-year, $5.25 million contract. (Link)

John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks agree to an eight-year extension with a $6.4 million AAV (Link)

August 3
Mark Stone gets a one-year, $7.35 million contract from the Senators. (Link)

• Stars forward Gemel Smith is awarded a one-year, $720,000 contract in arbitration. (Link)

Cody Ceci gets a one-year, $4.3 million deal via arbitration. (Link)

August 1
• The Flyers and Robert Hagg agree to a two-year, $2.3 million deal (Link)

Patrik Nemeth and the Avalanche agree to a one-year, $2.5 million deal. (Link)

July 31
• The Rangers and Ryan Spooner agree to a two-year, $8 million deal. (Link)

July 30
• Flames, Garnet Hathaway avoid arbitration and agree to a one-year, $850,000 deal. (Link)

Miikka Salomaki and the Predators come to terms on a two-year, $1.5 million extension. (Link)

• Matt Read joins the Wild on a two-way deal. One-year, $650,000. (Link)

July 28
Brady Skjei and the Rangers agree to a six-year, $31.5 million deal. (Link)

July 27
Tom Wilson gets a six-year, $31 million extension from the Capitals. (Link)

July 26
• David Rittich, Calgary Flames agree to one-year, $800,000 contract. (Link)

Tristan Jarry re-signs with the Penguins. Two years, $1.35 million (Link)

July 25
• Mark Jankowski and the Flames agree to two-year, $3.35 million deal to avoid arbitration. (Link)

• Dan Hamhuis returns to the Predators with a two-year, $2.5 million deal. (Link)

Mattias Janmark signs a one-year, $2.3 million deal with the Stars. (Link)

Jake Virtanen re-signs with the Canucks. Two years, $2.5 million. (Link)

• An arbitrator has awarded Flames defenseman Brett Kulak a one-year, $900,000 contract. (Link)

MacKenzie Weegar returns to the Panthers one a one-year deal. (Link)

Jason Zucker and the Wild agree to a five-year, $27.5 million extension. (Link)

July 24
Joel Edmundson and the Blues avoid arbitration and agree to a one-year, $3 million deal. (Link)

• Another arbitration session avoided as Brandon Montour and the Ducks reach a two-year, $6.775 million deal. (Link)

Tucker Poolman and the Jets agree to a three-year, $2.325 million deal. (Link)

Brooks Orpik returns to the Capitals on a one-year, $1 million contract. (Link)

• Jets, Marko Dano agree to a one-year, $800,000 deal. (Link)

July 23
William Carrier stays with the Golden Knights with a two-year, $1.45 million contract. (Link)

• Islanders, Brock Nelson avoid arbitration with one-year, $4.25 million deal. (Link)

July 22
• Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba is awarded a one-year, $5.5 million contract in arbitration. (Link)

Brandon Tanev and the Jets agree to a one-year, $1.15 million deal. (Link)

July 21
Matt Dumba signs a five-year, $30 million extension with the Wild. (Link)

July 20
• Troy Stetcher and the Canucks agree to a two-year, $4.65 million extension. (Link)

July 19
Adam Lowry and the Jets come to terms on a three-year, $8.75 million extension, avoiding arbitration. (Link)

Madison Bowey re-signs with the Capitals. Two years, $2 million. (Link)

Derek Grant joins the Penguins on a one-year, $650,000 deal. (Link)

July 18
• Chris Tierney, San Jose Sharks avoid arbitration with a two-year deal with an AAV of $2.9375 million. (Link)

• The Edmonton Oilers sign their 2018 first-round pick Evan Bouchard to an entry-level deal. (Link)

July 17
• The Devils agree to terms with Blake Coleman on a three-year, $5.4 million deal (Link)

• A busy morning for Ray Shero also sees Stefan Noesen agree to a one-year, $1.725 million deal. (Link)

Ryan Pulock, Islanders agree to a two-year, $4 million contract. (Link)

Jimmy Vesey and the Rangers avoid arbitration and agree to a two-year, $4.55 million deal. (Link)

Tomas Nosek re-signs with the Golden Knights. One-year, $962,500. (Link)

July 16
Ryan Hartman and the Predators agree to a one-year, $875,000 deal. (Link)

Elias Lindholm inks a six-year, $29.1 million extension with the Flames. (Link)

• The Ducks lock up Adam Henrique with a five-year, $29.125 million extension. (Link)

Juuse Saros signs a three-year, $4.5 million extension with the Predators. (Link)

Jon Gillies and the Flames agree to a two-year, $1.5 million deal. (Link)

July 15
• The Blue Jackets and Oliver Bjorkstrand agree to a three-year, $7.5 million extension. (Link)

• Philip Danult re-signs with the Canadiens. Thee years, $9.249 million. (Link)

July 14
Ryan Murray accepts his qualifying offer with the Blue Jackets. One year, $2.825 million. (Link)

Rob O'Gara re-signs with the Rangers. One year, $874,125. (Link)

July 13
Joel Armia and the Canadiens come to terms on a one-year, $1.85 million contract. (Link)

Marc-Andre Fleury and the Golden Knights agree to a three-year, $21 million extension. (Link)

Andreas Johnsson accepts his qualifying offer, a one-year, $787,500 deal with the Maple Leafs. (Link)

• The Stars extend Devin Shore with a two-year, $4.6 million contract. (Link)

July 12
Connor Hellebuyck signs a six-year, $37 million extension with the Jets. (Link)

• The Blackhawks send the contract of Marian Hossa’s contract, Vinnie Hinostroza, Jordan Oesterle and a 2019 third-rounder to the Coyotes for Marcus Kruger, Jordan Maletta, Andrew Campbell, MacKenzie Entwistle’s rights and a 2019 fifth-rounder. (Link)

Cody McLeod returns to the Rangers on a one-year deal. (Link)

Jamie Oleksiak and the Penguins agree to a three-year, $6.4125 million extension. (Link)

July 11
Adam Erne re-signs with the Lightning. One-year, $800,000. (Link)

Anthony Mantha and the Red Wings agree to a two-year, $6.6 million extension. (Link)

July 10
Patrick Maroon heads homes to St. Louis and signs a one-year, $1.75 million deal with the Blues. (Link)

Nikita Kucherov signs an eight-year, $76 million extension with the Lightning. (Link)

July 9
Ross Johnston gets a four-year, $4 million extension with the Islanders. (Link)

Rasmus Dahlin inks his three-year, entry level contract with the Sabres. (Link)

• The Islanders add forward Jan Kovar, who spent the last five seasons in the KHL, with a one-year deal. (Link)

July 7
• Alex Lyon re-signs in Philadelphia. Two years, $1.5 million. (Link)

Dmitrij Jaskin and the Blues agree to a one-year, $1.1 million extension. (Link)

Colin Miller signs four-year, $15.5 million extension with the Vegas Golden Knights (Link)

Dylan DeMelo re-ups with the San Jose Sharks. Two years, $1.8 million total. (Link)

July 6
Matt Nieto stays with the Colorado Avalanche. Two years, $3.95 million total. (Link)

• Oscar Dansk re-signs with the Vegas Golden Knights. Two years, $1.35 million total. (Link)

• The Dallas Stars re-sign Jason Dickinson to a one-year, $875,000 contract. (Link)

Alexander Petrovic re-signs with the Florida Panthers with a one-year deal. (Link)

• After getting bought out by the Wild, Tyler Ennis signs with the Maple Leafs. One year, $650,000. (Link)

Ryan Strome re-ups with the Oilers with a two-year, $6.2 million extension. (Link)

Oskar Sundqvist inks a one-year, $700,000 to remain a St. Louis Blue. (Link)

July 5
Cedric Paquette gets a one-year, $1 million deal to stay with the Lightning. (Link)

Trevor van Riemsdyk, Hurricanes avoid arbitration with two-year, $4.6 million deal. (Link)

Anthony Duclair heads to the Blue Jackets on a one-year, $650,000 deal. (Link)

Andreas Athanasiou stays with the Detroit Red Wings with a two-year, $6 million deal. (Link)

Jacob De La Rose re-signs with the Canadiens with a two-year, $1.8 million contract. (Link)

• The Ducks bring on Andrej Sustr with a one-year, $1.3 million contract. (Link)

Boone Jenner gets a four-year, $15 million extension from the Columbus Blue Jackets. (Link)

Christian Folin gets a one-year deal from the Philadelphia Flyers. (Link)

Jordan Nolan heads to the St. Louis Blues. One year, $650,000. (Link)

July 3
Robby Fabbri stays in St. Louis with a one-year, $925,000 deal. (Link)

• The Boston Bruins re-sign Sean Kuraly for three years, $3.825 million. (Link)

Remi Elie re-signs with the Dallas Stars. One year, $735,000 (Link)

Calvin de Haan signs with the Carolina Hurricanes on a four-year, $18.4 million contract in free agency. [Link]

• The Islanders signed goalie Robin Lehner to a one-year contract. [Link]

Brad Richardson is back with the Arizona Coyotes on a two-year contract. [Link]

• The Islanders bring back Matt Martin in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Link)

July 2
Tomas Hertl re-ups with the Sharks on a four-year, $22.5 million contract. (Link)

Carter Rowney gets a three-year deal from the Anaheim Ducks. (Link)

Joe Thornton re-signs in San Jose with a one-year, $5 million deal. (Link)

Brian Gibbons lands a one-year, $1 million contract with the Anaheim Ducks. (Link)

Slater Koekkoek is back with the Tampa Bay Lightning. One year, $865,000. (Link)

Zac Rinaldo has a new home with the Nashville Predators. One year, $650,000. (Link)

James Neal gets a five-year, $28.75 million deal from the Calgary Flames. (Link)

Tom Kuhnhackl joins the Islanders on a one-year deal. (Link)

July 1
Matt Calvert joins the Colorado Avalanche on a three-year, $8.4 millon deal. (Link)

Valtteri Filppula joins the Islanders on a one-year, $2.75 million deal. (Link)

• The Buffalo Sabres send Ryan O'Reilly to the St. Louis Blues for a 2019 first-rounder, 2021 second-rounder, forwards Tage Thompson, Patrik Berglund, and Vladimir Sobotka. The Blues also pick up O’Reilly’s $7.5 million signing bonus. (Link)

Luke Schenn will be manning the Anaheim Ducks’ blue line next season. One year, $800,000. (Link)

• Defenseman Nick Holden is joining the Western Conference champion Vegas Golden Knights. Two years, $4.4 million (Link)

• Islanders sign Leo Komarov for four years, $12 million. (Link)

Sven Baertschi is back in Vancouver on a three-year, $10 million contract. (Link)

Riley Nash cashes in on a big year and gets a three-year, $8.25 million deal with the Blue Jackets. (Link)

Vladislav Namestnikov is staying with the New York Rangers with a two-year, $8 million extension. (Link)

Tobias Rieder hooks up with the Oilers on a one-year, $1.3 million contract. (Link)

Matt Cullen goes back to Pittsburgh on a one-year. $650,000 deal. (Link)

John Moore gets a big contract from the Boston Bruins. Five years, $13.75 million. (Link)

• #TavaresWatch is over. John Tavares has signed a seven-year, $77 million deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Link)

• The Sabres and Blues basically swap backup goalies now that Chad Johnson signs for one year, $1.75 million in St. Louis. (Link)

• The Hurricanes find their backup in Petr Mrazek. One year, $1.5 million. (Link)

Michael Grabner heads west with a three-year, $10.05 million deal with the Coyotes. (Link)

Kyle Brodziak joins the Oilers for two years, $2.3 million. (Link)

• After two seasons in the KHL, Val Nichushkin returns to Dallas with a two-year, $5.9 million deal. (Link)

J.T. Brown joins the Wild on a two-year, $1.375 million contract. (Link)

Ryan McDonagh inks a seven-year, $47.25 million extension to stay with the Tampa Bay Lightning. (Link)

• The Stars stay busy adding Roman Polak (one year, $1.3 million) to their blue line. (Link)

Tomas Plekanec is member of the Montreal Canadiens again. One year, $2.25 million. (Link)

• The Chicago Blackhawks add Cam Ward ($3 million) and Chris Kunitz ($1 million) on one year deals and ink Brandon Manning to a two-year, $4.5 million contract. (Link)

• The Coyotes make Oliver Ekman-Larsson‘s eight year, $66 million extension official. (Link)

• The Colorado Avalanche add to their blue line bringing in Ian Cole on a three-year, $12.75 million deal. (Link)

Blake Comeau is signed by the Dallas Stars, three years, $7.2 million. (Link)

Tyler Bozak joins Perron in St. Louis as the Blues ink the center to a three-year, $15 million deal. (Link)

Thomas Hickey heads back to the Islanders with a four-year, $10 million contract. (Link)

Paul Stastny leaves Winnipeg for the Vegas Golden Knights on a three-year, $19.5 million deal. (Link)

• The Jack Johnson to the Penguins deal is real and it’s $16.25 million over five years. (Link)

Thomas Vanek (one year, $3 million), Mike Green (two year, $10.75 million) and Jonathan Bernier (three year, $9 million) have all signed with the Detroit Red Wings.

James van Riemsdyk heads back to Philadelphia with a five-year, $35 million contract. (Link)

David Perron returns to St. Louis and signs a four-year, $16 million deal with the Blues. (Link)

Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel each get four-year, $12 million deals from the Vancouver Canucks. (Link)

• The Calgary Flames pick up Derek Ryan (three years, $9.375 million) and Austin Czarnik (two years, $2.50 million). (Link)

Greg Pateryn gets a three-year, $6.75 million deal from the Minnesota Wild. Eric Fehr (one year, $1 million) is joining him. (Link)

• The Bruins, Sabres Stars find backups with Jaroslav Halak (two years, $5.5 million) headed to Boston, Anton Khudobin (two years, $5 million) on his way to Dallas and Carter Hutton (three years, $8.25 million) going to Buffalo.

Matt Hendricks moves on to the Wild with a one-year, $700,000 deal. (Link)

June 30
• Winnipeg Jets clear valuable cap space by shipping Steve Mason to Montreal Canadiens. (Link)

Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks agree to eight-year, $64 million extension. (Link)

Ryan Reaves is sticking in Sin City, signing a two-year, $5.5 million contract with the Vegas Golden Knights. (Link)

Chris Wagner heads to the Boston Bruins on a two-year, $2.5 million deal. (Link)

Eddie Lack returns to New Jersey on a one-year, $650,000 deal with the Devils. (Link)

• The Carolina Hurricanes hand Andrei Svechnikov his three-year, entry level deal worth $2,497,500. (Link)

Niklas Hjalmarsson inks a two-year, $10 million extension (kicks in 2019-20) with the Arizona Coyotes. (Link)

June 29
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings agree to eight-year, $88 million extension. (Link)

Michal Kempny stays in Washington with four-year, $10 million extension. (Link)

• Capitals name Todd Reirden as Barry Trotz’s replacement. (Link)

Frank Vatrano returns to Florida Panthers on one-year, $925,000 contract. (Link)

• Carolina Hurricanes re-sign Valentin Zykov with two-year, $1.35 million contract. (Link)

June 28
• Penguins hand one-year, $650,000 deal to J.S. Dea. (Link)

June 27
• Penguins deal Conor Sheary, Matt Hunwick to Buffalo Sabres. (Link)

Devante Smith-Pelly returns to Washington Capitals with one-year, $1 million deal (Link)

• Penguins re-sign Riley Sheahan to $2.1 million, 1-year deal. (Link)

• Arizona Coyotes bring back Kevin Connauton with two year, $2.75 million extension. (Link)

June 26
• Vancouver Canucks re-sign Derrick Pouliot, one year, $1.1 million. (Link)

• Pittsburgh Penguins re-sign Bryan Rust with 4 year, $14 million deal. (Link)

• Ottawa Senators buy out final year Alex Burrows’s contract. (Link)

J.T. Miller gets five-year, $26.25 million extension from Tampa Bay Lightning. (Link)

• Sam Morin gets three-year, $2.1 million extension from Philadelphia Flyers. (Link)

Joe Morrow re-signs with Winnipeg Jets for $1 million over one year. (Link)

PHT Morning Skate: Seguin’s future; Pacioretty on ‘horrible’ season

Jamie Benn / Instagram
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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Jamie Benn and Snoop Dogg and now BFFs. 

• If Tyler Seguin doesn’t sign a long-term extension with the Dallas Stars and becomes available, would a reunion in Boston make sense? [NBC Boston]

• Brady Tkachuk officially signed his ELC on Monday. Where does he see his future? “I think it’s with Ottawa and in the NHL. I think I’m physically ready and mentally ready for the grind. I think I’m definitely ready and I’m going to get better as the year goes on.” [Ottawa Citizen]

• Despite all the trade rumors, Max Pacioretty is ready to return to the Montreal Canadiens after a ‘horrible’ season. [Sportsnet]

• The four options, per IIHF president Rene Fasel, for the 2022 Winter Olympics: The NHL and NHLPA agree to send players; use a similar setup as Pyeongchang 2018; use under-23 players; no hockey at all in Beijing. [Inside the Games]

• Bill Foley on the Vegas Golden Knights’ off-season and what he wants to do with the team’s pre-game intro next season. [Las Vegas Sun]

• Why bright futures are ahead for both Kyle Connor and Jack Roslovic. [TSN]

• Is it time for an NHL playoff format change? [Pensburgh]

• Why January 1, 2019 is a very important date for Jacob Trouba, Mark Stone, William Karlsson, Kevin Hayes, and Brock Nelson. [The Hockey News]

• The fans have spoken an the Vancouver Canucks will be wearing the electric skate jerseys a handful of times during their 50th anniversary season in 2019-20. [Canucks]

• Can the New York Rangers win if they don’t have elite talent sprinkled on their roster? [Blue Seat Blogs]

• How does the current Toronto Maple Leafs blue line compare to that of the defending Stanley Cup champions? [Leafs Nation]

• Why Ryan Johansen deserves your respect. [Predlines]

• How Todd Reirden’s staff in Washington will aid him as head coach of the Capitals. [Stars and Sticks]

• The Minnesota Wild and the NWHL’s Minnesota Whitecaps are teaming up. [NWHL]

Zach Aston-Reese is healthy and confident heading into the season with the Pittsburgh Penguins. [NHL.com]

• Would it make sense for the New Jersey Devils to take on a bad contract if there’s a decent sweetner involved? [Pucks and Pitchforks]

• Could Shawn Matthias be heading to Switzerland? [Swiss Hockey News]

• Hey, Teuvo Teravainen… not bad, kid:

Getting ready for the season😎 #teuvotuesday #golf #puukäsi

A post shared by Teuvo Teräväinen (@teravainenteuvo) on

PHT Morning Skate: Remembering Stan Mikita

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• A great read on what Stan Mikita meant to the city of Chicago. [Faxes from Uncle Dale]

• “Years before his death, Mikita was recognized with a statue of his own, the captain’s C on his sweater, the puck on his stick, his head up, his body ready to make a move. The sculpture captures Mikita. And it doesn’t. A sculpture couldn’t possibly capture all of that man.” [Chicago Tribune]

• “When Mikita became deeply involved in the American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association-he knew no other way than deeply involved-he didn’t have to ask teammates to show up every day for kids who were challenged. The Blackhawks came out of respect for Mikita and a cause that meant so much to him. Stan didn’t just explore or dabble in humanitarian ventures. He surrounded them.” [Blackhawks]

• “Standing five-foot-nine and weighing about 160 pounds, Mikita more than compensated for any size disadvantage with an I’ll-show-you spirit. Though not the strongest skater, he was often the person orchestrating the action, seeing the angles and making the plays, all the while spending his energy efficiently.” [Sportsnet]

• New Jersey Devils owner Josh Harris on wanting to sign Taylor Hall longterm: “Taylor is definitely going to be front and center, so it will definitely be a high priority. I hope I’m working with Taylor for a long time.” [NJ.com]

John Gibson signed his eight-year extension with the Anaheim Ducks hours before he got married. [LA Times]

• Montreal Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin on playing center this coming season: “I don’t make those decisions, but that’s where I played last year and I feel comfortable coming in this year and knowing that I’m playing centre.” [Montreal Gazette]

Vladimir Tarasenko was back on the ice Monday after undergoing shoulder surgery after the season. “I feel great and I feel stronger. I’m ready for the season.” [Blues]

• How signing bonuses could create a big issue in the NHL. [TSN]

• On Ron Hextall’s preference for having a tandem in goal for the Philadelphia Flyers. [NBC Philadelphia]

Josh Morrissey is a current restricted free agent. Why the Winnipeg Jets should lock him up long-term. [The Hockey News]

• A Vegas Golden Knights museum is coming to the team’s practice facility. [Las Vegas Sun]

• Why William Karlsson’s extension is a gamble for the Golden Knights. [Sporting News]

• After a busy off-season, what can we expect from these Buffalo Sabres? [Yahoo]

• Have the Edmonton Oilers done enough to make a return to the postseason? [Edmonton Journal]

Anton Khudobin over Kari Lehtonen as the Dallas Stars backup goaltender. Is that an upgrade? [Dallas Morning News]

• How Artemi Panarin leaving the Columbus Blue Jackets could benefit Sonny Milano. [The Hockey Writers]

• A quick to the playoffs for the Vancouver Canucks? That’s not in the cards. [Vancouver Courier]

• Why Troy Brouwer’s buyout by the Calgary Flames was necessary for the wrong reasons. [Flame for Thought]

• Five takeaways from the NHL 19 beta. [Operation Sports]

• A look at parity in the NCAA hockey tournament. [USCHO]

• Finally, here’s Nathan MacKinnon trying his hand at juggling:

Where should Jonathan Toews rank among NHL’s top centers?

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Life comes at you fast sometimes.

It was not that long ago that the Chicago Blackhawks were the NHL’s most powerful team on the ice and their captain, Jonathan Toews, was regarded as one of the best players in the league.

Perhaps even, in the opinion of some, the best player in hockey and the one player that you should most want to build your franchise around for both tangible (two-way play, production) and intangible reasons (leadership, the fact the team always won and he was at the center of a lot of it). That status among the league’s elite seems to have taken quite a tumble. So much so that he is apparently no longer even considered one of the best players in the league at his position, let alone overall.

Take, for example, this list of the top-20 centers from this the NHL Network this week that does not include Jonathan Toews.

I don’t want to get too far into an in-depth analysis of the value of such a ranking or a list, and maybe you can quibble with one or two names at the bottom of the list (William Karlsson, for example) but the fact that Toews, one of the most well-known names in the league, one of the highest paid players in the league, on one of the most prominent franchises in the league, can’t crack a superficial list designed to draw interest from casual fans is a damning indictment on how far his star has fallen in a short period of time.

[Blackhawks day at PHT: ’17-18 review | Building off a breakthrough: DeBrincat | Under Pressure: Quenneville]

Again: This is a player that just a few years ago was the subject of arguments as to whether or not he was one of the best players in the entire sport. Today the Blackhawks are paying him $10.5 million per season for the next five years (Connor McDavid and John Tavares are the only players in the NHL that will carry a larger salary cap hit this season) and it’s at least debatable, if not factual, that he is no longer one of the league’s top centers.

Just consider that he has not topped the 60-point mark in three years. His 2017-18 performance was the worst of his career offensively and for three years now he has been, at best, second-tier producer offensively.

Here are his ranks among centers in goals per game, points per game, and shot attempt percentage over the past three years.

Again, this is just among centers.

Probably the most encouraging thing about this past season is that his ability to drive possession rebounded in a big way. But that drop in actual offense is significant and jarring. Just for comparisons sake, here are his ranks among centers in the same categories during the six-year stretch between 2009-10 and 2014-15 when the Blackhawks won three Stanley Cups.

Even when he was at his best he was never truly an elite scorer. In his career he has had two seasons where he finished in the top-10 in goals per game league-wide, and zero top-10 finishes in points per game.

Even among centers he was, at his best, just barely inside the top-10 and rarely near the top.

But he was still excellent. He still produced like a top-tier center, and when combined with the defensive play you had one outstanding player. Best player in the league outstanding? Absolutely not. But still outstanding.

The trouble for the Blackhawks is that it is not just the offense that has dropped off so much, as his ability to drive possession also took a pretty significant hit in two of the past three seasons. If he is not scoring like a top-tier center, and he is not helping to dictate the pace of the game like a top-tier center, then there’s not much else to suggest that he is still a top-tier center other than the reputation from his peak years between 2010 and 2015. A reputation that was probably boosted significantly given that the team surrounding him for those six seasons was consistently loaded and always winning.

There is a lot to be said for his defensive game, and it is still held in high regard (at least when you look at the Selke Trophy voting).

But for a $10.5 million cap hit you need to see scoring. You need to see offense. You need to see a player that is going to carry a team in every possible way. And the Blackhawks have simply not been getting that from Toews in recent years, while pretty much every player on the above list that is ahead of him is consistently giving their teams that sort of play, with the one possible exception again being William Karlsson.

But if we are now at the point where it’s a debate as to whether or not Toews is the 18th or 19th best center in the league next to Karlsson, a player that until this season had never scored more than 10 goals in a single season, that has to be a concern for a Blackhawks team that still has more than $50 million committed to him over the next five years.

His play has dropped individually, and when combined with the decline of the Blackhawks as a team it’s seen Toews go from being regarded as one of the best players in the league just three years ago to what is basically now just another guy.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Building off a breakthrough: Alex DeBrincat

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Chicago Blackhawks.

With all that went wrong for Chicago in 2017-18, it’s easy to forget how very, very right things went for Alex DeBrincat.

The pint-sized rookie scored an impressive 28 goals and 52 points despite averaging less than 15 minutes (14:48) of ice time per night. If the 2017-18 season wasn’t absolutely jam-packed with fantastic rookies, DeBrincat would have at least been a finalist for the Calder.

Such a strong season shines a brighter spotlight on the 20-year-old, something he seems keenly aware of, as NBC Sports Chicago’s James Neveau reported in late July.

“It’s definitely different,” DeBrincat said. “It was low-key coming in as a rookie, and there weren’t many expectations for me. Now the expectations are there, but those aren’t something I’m looking at. I’m looking to improve in any way I can and just be a better player overall.”

So, can DeBrincat top his fabulous first year with an encore in 2018-19? There are reasons to expect more and also some arguments for a sophomore slump.

[Looking back on 2017-18]

Let’s get the half-empty out of the way, first: DeBrincat’s shooting percentage indicated that the small scorer received his fair share of positive bounces. While it’s not in the William Karlsson stratosphere, DeBrincat scored his 28 goals by riding a 15.5 shooting percentage. Less puck luck could bump him down a few notches.

The good news is that, well, there’s quite a bit of good news.

Again, DeBrincat didn’t get a ton of opportunities from an ice time perspective. At minimum, the Blackhawks would be wise to send the highly skilled player out on the power play more often. DeBrincat’s 2:02 PPTOI per night stood as a good start, but if you want more punch on the man advantage, wouldn’t you send him out more often than Artem Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz, and even maybe Brandon Saad?

(You could make a reasonable argument that DeBrincat should be right up there with Jonathan Toews, honestly.)

There’s a strong chance that Joel Quenneville will get more and more comfortable with the American forward after seeing him excel last season.

Such thoughts might also provide DeBrincat with better (and more stable) running mates.

Via Natural Stat Trick, DeBrincat’s forward partners were all over the place at even-strength. While DeBrincat enjoyed a decent chunk of shifts with Toews, he also spent comparable time with Patrick Sharp and Schmaltz. Echoing the points about power play possibilities, he was mainly on the second unit last season. Why not get him somewhere in that five-man group?

Whether DeBrincat makes a leap forward, a small step back, or basically stands in place, it sure seems like the Blackhawks unearthed another gem in this guy.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.