The Chicago Blackhawks will not re-sign veteran center Michael Handzus and allow the 37-year-old to hit unrestricted free agency, reports Bob MacKenzie of TSN.
The team’s No. 2 center since being acquired in April 2013 from the San Jose Sharks, Handzus played a key role in the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup run last season, appearing in a team-high 23 games with three goals and 11 points. That performance couldn’t be replicated this year, though, and his age showed during the team’s failed playoff run.
With the Blackhawks trying to make improvements going into next season, replacing Handzus seems like a logical step. He only recorded four goals and 16 points in 59 games with Chicago in 2013-14, and while he was never acquired to play such a prominent role, his inability to step up proved costly in the end.
So the Blackhawks will need to make some changes heading into next season, and that likely starts at center. Moving Andrew Shaw or Ben Smith up to the No. 2 spot seems like one possibility, but as Pro Hockey Talk notes, GM Stan Bowman could also go big by trying to land someone like Ryan Kesler.
The other intriguing possibility, calling up 19-year-old top prospect Teuvo Teravainen seems unlikely given the team’s championship aspirations.
Either way, this is the end of the somewhat brief Handzus era in Chicago, one that was full of highs and lows. He did get to win his first Stanley Cup with the franchise, though, so here’s to guessing that both sides will mostly remember the partnership fondly.