What role does Jujhar Khaira have on the Blackhawks?

When free agency opened in the NHL at the end of July, the Chicago Blackhawks surprised a few people when they signed forward Jujhar Khaira to a two-year deal.

As we outlined when Khaira signed, he brings a physical element the Hawks lacked up front last year. He’s a hitter; last season, Khiara was credited with 151 hits (18.79 per 60 min. of ice time).

But now that Brandon Hagel has re-signed (even without Alex Nylander having a new deal done), it’s hard to see how/where Khiara fits into the 2021-22 Blackhawks.

According to CapFriendly, the Blackhawks have 14 forwards signed to NHL deals. That number does include Brett Connolly, but does not include Lukas Reichel. Reichel was the team’s top pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and indications are that he’ll get a look at the NHL level in the coming season.

So let’s look at just the 15 forwards with NHL contracts (again, not including Reichel or Nylander).

The top six appears to be relatively set.

It appears Jonathan Toews is back, which is a huge addition to the roster. He and Kirby Dach would figure to be the top two centers on the roster. Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat will hold down two of the wing spots. Tyler Johnson, Dominik Kubalik, Brandon Hagel, Philipp Kurashev and even Adam Gaudette could battle for the other two wing spots.

That’s five forwards fighting for the final two wing spots in the top six. Math tells us the other three will filter down to the bottom six.

As the roster is currently put together with NHL contracts, Johnson, Dylan Strome and Henrik Borgström will battle for the third center position. Whether or not Strome is still on the roster on Opening Night is TBD, but Borgström didn’t sign with the Hawks to return to the NHL for a lovely winter in Rockford.

Reichel is also a center who could figure into the top-nine mix.

The loss of Kampf opens a spot for a fourth-line center. One of Strome, Borgström or Ryan Carpenter could slide into that role. Khiara won 45 percent of his faceoffs last year; he isn’t going to be an improvement from Kampf and likely wouldn’t be better than Carpenter. And, if Johnson is the third-line center, that pushes another center further down the lineup.

And, again, Connolly is still on the Blackhawks’ NHL roster. He has not been bought out or sent to Rockford.

So what could the Hawks’ forward lines look like if, without Reichel and/or Nylander in the mix, the current NHL players are considered? (These lines are not set in stone by any means; they’re for the purpose of this conversation.)

Kurashev – Toews – Kane
Kubalik – Dach – DeBrincat
Hagel – Borgström – Johnson
Gaudette – Carpenter – Connolly

This lineup doesn’t include re-signed Mike Hardman, Strome, Reichel, Nylander or Khiara.

Strome is as good (bad?) as Khiara at the dot and provides more offense. Reichel is the future of the organization. While neither of them hits as frequently as Khiara, their offensive upside makes them better options in the lineup than Khiara. For what it’s worth, Hardman averaged 25.93 hits/60 min. – making Hardman a better option than Khiara as well.

And then there’s the curious case of Nylander, who has shown flashes of brilliance and also been frustratingly inconsistent.

The point being: Khiara is the odd man out. His cap hit ($975k) makes him a very viable option to send him to Rockford. But his play on the ice doesn’t warrant a roster spot ahead of the players already signed.

36 thoughts on “What role does Jujhar Khaira have on the Blackhawks?

  • August 10, 2021 at 11:24 am
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    hardmen just signed a 2 year extension

  • August 10, 2021 at 11:33 am
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    Note for tim: there’s a separate post re: Mike Hardman re-signing.

  • August 10, 2021 at 12:00 pm
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    Playing musical chairs with the Hawks forwards are going to result in a bunch not finding a chair to sit in when the music stops – Khaira being the most obvious. Hopefully Connolly is sent packing and Stan finds a taker for Strome. With the number of forwards vying for spots in the lineup and some of them auditioning for where they could fit on the Hawks (Borgstrom, Johnson, Gaudette) – I hope Reichel starts in Rockford, if not plays the whole year there. I mean, if he blows away the competition in training camp then he deserves to stay, but if not then he should be in Rockford for at least until the other forwards are sorted out.

  • August 10, 2021 at 12:06 pm
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    Maybe instead of developing a farm system maybe StanBo wants to purchase one?? If you leave Khaira out of the equation there’s no one person in the above forward lines that can lay a hit on anybody or stick up for a teammate. Khaira must be included in those lines for some semblance of physicality on this “retooled” not “rebuilding” team. Teams will still laugh at us, take a run at our players with no recourse if he’s not in there. StanBo can’t be that stupid can he??

  • August 10, 2021 at 1:07 pm
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    Carpenter,Strome,Connelly can be moved along with Subban….

  • August 10, 2021 at 1:10 pm
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    Still thinking about that Strome to Boston for Federic. Maybe send Shaw’s money with Strome and it helps Boston to do a TB roster and give us 3.2mil of room without retaining anything.

  • August 10, 2021 at 1:45 pm
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    JR – yeah, probably wishful thinking but that would be a nice 2 birds with 1 stone trade by offloading Strome and getting a tough physical player for the 4th line.

  • August 10, 2021 at 2:09 pm
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    Tend to agree that Khaira will play at least to start – I don’t think they signed him to sit or worse go to Rockford – I think he’ll get a chance to play himself out of the line up

    Connolly and Carp can go or sit before him IMO – Khaira is one of the best PKers in the NHL according to the analytics so he can take Carp’s role there and Connolly can go to RKF if needs be

    50/50 chance Strome is gone by opening night and I think Nylander is in the opening night line up unless Reichel is so good you can’t keep him off the team

    Assuming Reichel starts in RKF, Nylander re-signs and Strome is traded

    Nylander Toews Kub
    DCat Dach Kane
    Gaudette Johnson Borgstrom
    Hagel Kurashev Khaira

    Carp Connolly

    If Strome is not traded he probably slots into top 9 and someone like Nylander Gaudette or Borgstrom is in the press box – Connolly in RKF

  • August 10, 2021 at 3:12 pm
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    Thinking we make a Clutterbuck Cizikas Martin line with Khaira Borgstrom Hagel.

  • August 10, 2021 at 4:15 pm
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    @wrap, I like your lines. From the little I’ve seen of Khaira I seem to remember that he had great wheels. Putting him on a line with Hagel could cause serious problems for opposition 4th liners.

  • August 10, 2021 at 6:18 pm
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    re: Khiara wouldn’t have signed here to go to Rockford – keep in mind he got a 1-way deal so he gets paid either way AND he got 2 years. I’m not sure how many places were offering him more than 1 so the certainty that he’ll get paid for 2 years likely played a big role in him choosing Chicago. It also gives the Hawks a guy under control as an option beyond the coming season, which is nice to have in the event there are injuries/trades that take place. I’m just not sold on a guy who wins 45 percent of his faceoffs being in the lineup for no reason other than hitting people. There are guys on the payroll who can kill penalties and bring a lot more to the table.

  • August 10, 2021 at 6:19 pm
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    Can’t we throw Nylander in on a potential trade to somebody??

  • August 10, 2021 at 6:21 pm
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    Terribly sad news for Hawk Nation. We lost Tony O RIP.

  • August 10, 2021 at 6:37 pm
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    @Tab: If Khaira isn’t in the lineup and somebody does a 2 handed slash and takes Kane out, Who’s takes care of that??? Nobody. Then what will the fans say then about their beloved StanBo?? 45% FO be damned, who else on the roster is going to bring more to the table and kill penalties than him??? Who else?? Hardman???

  • August 10, 2021 at 7:04 pm
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    Khaira can play on the wing so FOs shouldn’t be an issue

    I thought he played well vs the Hawks in an agitating role something the Hawks could use plus penalty killing was not a strong suit for CHI last year and he can help there so yeah I think he’ll be in the line up at least until he shows he shouldn’t be

  • August 10, 2021 at 8:24 pm
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    Like the idea of Khiara and Hagel on the wings in 4th line with maybe a righty Gaudette possibly in the middle to give a righty/lefty fo combo that may be at center, Carpenter and Reese Johnson viable options there too. If Strome does survive and makes opening night roster, could be a line of Cat, Dach and Strome, with what could be a decent righty/lefty fo combo on a line that could light it up, but still don’t expect him to be there though.

  • August 10, 2021 at 10:29 pm
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    If Borgstrom does turn out to be a decent fo guy, wouldn’t really be surprised to see something like:

    Kubalik. Toews. Kane
    Cat. Dach. Strome/Nylander
    Kurashev. T Johnson. Gaudette
    Khiara. Borgstrom. Hagel
    With Connelly, Hardman, Entwistle competing for depth spots and Reichel a callup when ready.
    Johnson Barrett and Alty in picture in season.

    McCabe. S. Jones
    Stillman. Murphy
    Dehaan. Kalynuk
    C. Jones

    Beaudin Mitchell callup depth

  • August 11, 2021 at 2:34 am
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    How about Strome Connelly Shaw’s $$ and TB’s 2nd round for deBrusk and Federic. Or keep the pick and just deBrusk.

  • August 11, 2021 at 6:23 am
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    I wouldn’t mind seeing Hardman and or Reichel- play top line with
    Toews/Kane– assuming 19 actually plays– which is big IF

    Both Reichel and Hardman are very intelligent players
    Reichel with way more skill- Hardman with some grit. The key is BOTH have excellent IQ- and can play with HOF guys and be effective-imo

  • August 11, 2021 at 10:18 am
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    There are an abundance of questions to be answered as training camp and the season unfolds – one of them is Caleb Jones. I don’t have any first hand impressions of him playing from which to base expectations. I know the EDM d-corps has not been stellar over the past 3 seasons where Caleb has managed to get into the lineup in only 93 out of a possible 208 games – not exactly a rousing endorsement. But, that said, that’s an outside look without knowing if there were possibly some extenuating circumstances – did he miss time due to injury or simply not one of the best 6 d-men?

    So, pretty much starting with a blank slate with Caleb. Don’t know how well he skates, or how physical he is, or how instinctual he is in covering his assignments, or how he reacts under pressure. I suppose I can hang my hat on the fact he got in 93 games so someone in the Hawks management team saw enough to want him – at least hopefully that’s the case.

    Most of the projected lineups I see posted here and other sites have him penciled in ahead of Kalynuk in the lineup. Since there are the same age, my assumption is that it isn’t based on Caleb being older and farther along in his development curve. Yes, it is 93 NHL games versus only 21 for Kalynuk, but I’m not sure if that is significant enough to make the decision Caleb is the better option right now, especially with how well Kalynuk played in those 21 games on his off side. Maybe it’s a simple matter of Kalynuk is waiver exempt and Caleb is not.

    BTW – calling C.Jones by his first name doesn’t mean I’m his advocate or know him personally or that I’m president of his fan club – it’s simply easier to type and a differentiator from the other Jones … you know, kinda like Stan and Scotty, but whatever. :-)

  • August 11, 2021 at 10:29 am
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    Cautionary tale…between Stillman, Caleb Jones, and Khaira, the Hawks could be icing three of the worst players in the NHL on one team. Tab’s point is well taken, Khaira was bad on a very mediocre Edmonton team outside of the Big 2, and his main calling card is being physical…..well if you think he is going to protect anyone, look up on hockeyfights . com Khaira’s scraps from the last 2-3 seasons. Guy has only gotten his face pounded in pretty regularly. That isn’t going to protect anyone. When he was younger he could get by, but he is on the back 9 of a very fringe career and can’t do the main thing that he used to do well anymore.

  • August 11, 2021 at 10:51 am
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    Hereismike: I know next to nothing about Khaira but your reference to him being on the back nine piqued my interest so I checked and he is 2 days away from turning 27 – more like the prime years than the back nine. He very well could suck and be useless but he ain’t over the hill.

  • August 11, 2021 at 11:27 am
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    Ian – I think you forgot Carp

    It’s obviously a huge year for both Strome and Nylander – I feel like almost anything could happen with either of those two from boom to bust

    What if they both show up motivated and play well in camp does that mean Khaira sits or maybe Kurashev starts in RKF?

    It’ll be an interesting camp with lots of competition

  • August 11, 2021 at 12:36 pm
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    Khaira will be in the opening night lineup. My opinion is that Connolly,Strome,Carpenter,Nylander,and Reichel will not be in that lineup. I could see Carpenter and Strome traded and Connolly buried in Rockford. I don’t think Toews will be in the opening night lineup and Borgstrom will. Just my 2 cents for now.

  • August 11, 2021 at 1:02 pm
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    Toews seems like the kind of guy who wouldn’t come back unless he can play up to or close to his standards. If he isn’t ready to play at the start of the season my guess is that he won’t play any of the season because playing part time or less than 100% doesn’t seem to be in his nature. If it ends up being where he can’t play at a high level for 60+ games – then I hope he hangs up the skates because the Hawks will be better off in the long run giving those minutes to someone who might be part of the new core group.

  • August 11, 2021 at 2:04 pm
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    Wrap didn’t forget Carpenter, i’m assuming now that Bowman will likely want to be under 81.5m cap on opening day and place Shaw on ltir. By waiving Carpenter, claimed or not his caphit goes and burying Connelly clears another 1.o75.m, if as expected he goes unclaimed. That could almost do it with some on paper moves. Nylander hit unknown but wouldn’t be surprised with him having no leverage, Bowman forces him to take a 1 year $750,000 show me type of deal. Moving Strome the easiest way and still think its likely to happen though, but just thinking of getting max room out of Shaws ltir.

  • August 11, 2021 at 2:07 pm
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    EB the talk around Toews reminds me of when Crawford was coming back and he ended up playing some of his best hockey that year. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we see that from Toews this year, my concern is more how long he can maintain that level of play.

  • August 11, 2021 at 2:24 pm
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    ER- I kinda agree on Toews. I think mentally and physically he is NOT the same guy.
    And he is smart enough to know it. He has accomplished everything he needs to in Hockey. Hard to go from #1/2 Center in NHL- to middle of road to slightly better.

    Hardman- May not make the opening day roster ( due to cap/contracts/etc.)
    But- imo- he has a chance to be a player somewhere between Bickell/Brouwer.
    I really thought he showed well late last year. Hope he gets a real chance this year.

    Reichel- really high on him. Skates/dogs puck like Hagel. Has extra gear. ONLY question is he ready for the all around speed of NHL.

    Biggest question- Borgstrom- I followed his College days- guy was filthy. Super hands. I think if he skates with Puck pursuers- the likes of Hagel/Reichel and throw in a little beef- Hardman. You could have a good combo-cuz they might buy him some time/space situations.

  • August 11, 2021 at 2:45 pm
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    It would be interesting to know the sequence of events that may have changed the primary objective for the coming season from something resembling last season to one where they seem to be prioritizing making the playoffs over “letting the kids play”.

    I wonder if was Toews telling them he’ll be ready to play. They may have traded Keith anyway because Keith requested the trade, but I’m not sure the acquire MAF and Johnson if they were still in “let the kids play” mode.

    Maybe it’s just a matter of Toews’ body not allowing him to play at the same level as he did in the bubble playoffs in 2020, but then I would think he wouldn’t publicly announce he was coming back – he gets paid either way so that has nothing to do with his decision. He could have told the Hawks privately what his situation and intentions were but by doing it publicly it leads me to believe he feels he’ll be ready to go by the beginning of the season and if true it is probably the biggest factor determining the Hawks success or lack thereof this season.

  • August 11, 2021 at 3:35 pm
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    Hopefully Toews didn’t sit out due to “pouting”… We shall see…
    Excited bout the upcoming season as the old slow ones are gone…
    Let’s go HAWKS !!!!!!!!!!

  • August 12, 2021 at 5:28 am
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    EB i think the sequence changed more last year, with rash of injuries to Dach, Nylander, Toews illness and inability to sign Crawford or make a deal for Murray or Kuemper work out. This year is getting back on where they were going, defense would still have been play the youngsters last year but goalie and forward not so much.

  • August 12, 2021 at 6:40 am
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    ER- I am guessing Toews/Hawks – spoke behind closed doors. And bottom line- is Toews wants to play- but knows he can’t carry the Heavy Burdens of both top line C and Best D center (especially w/o Hall of Fame Hoss– was #1/2 Winger in game- factoring in Both sides of Puck). So Hawks were blessed/able to skate 2 of the Best 2 way players in game- on same line for several years.

    So Basically- Toews said- get me some Help!

    Hawks are way deeper now w/ all deals this off season. R

    Reality check- they no longer have top 5 Defensive shut down Center in league
    Cup teams-
    Toews
    Kruger
    Bolland
    were all top 5-10 shut down Centers-imo (I will include Madden 2010)

    Last year- Kampf? No
    Toews 2021…. No

    I wonder- if SB- will try to make a deal with all the Depth he has at Forward- for a mid level Center- who excels at checking the top Centers in Hockey- at least metrics wise.

    Is there another Danault out there to be had???

  • August 12, 2021 at 7:58 am
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    Bluto, maybe Cizikas for short term and Copp for long term.

    How’s the saying go ? That if a crusher tries to be a rusher soon becomes an usher?

    Could that work in reverse for some players? Players drafted for their offense but can’t cut it in the NHL concentrate on defense only.

    Strome and Nylander both 6 footers maybe give it at defense only. Pretty sure once the puck is on their stick the natural instincts of their offense will come in. Just make defense their priority when they hit the ice.

  • August 12, 2021 at 8:32 am
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    All this talk recently about various team’s prospect pools got me curious about the people who put these lists together and how accurate they may or may not be

    I realize evaluating young talent is not an exact science – scouts/GMs and writers often get it wrong (eg. Datysuk, DCat, Point and many more) so this is not to pick on Corey Pronman but I used him as my test case

    I took Pronman’s ranking of prospects before the loaded 2015 draft (the McDavid, Eichel draft) and compared it to a redrafting of the 2015 class based on how those players have done in their NHL careers

    I’ll list both Pronman’s picks and the redraft starting at pick #9 – the first 8 were sort of obvious although it should be noted that Thomas Chabot came in #6 in the redraft and Pronman had him at #45 – he also had Sebastien Aho at #28 and Aho was #4 in the redraft but at least with Aho Pronman had him in the first round

    Here’s the respective lists

    Pronman Redraft

    9 Evgengy Svechnikov M. Rantenen
    10 Lawson Crouse Kyle Connor
    11 Pavel Zacha Travis Konency
    12 Rantenen Brock Boeser
    13 Connor Hanifin
    14 Provorov Cirelli
    15 Oliver Kylington Timo Meier
    16 Jeremy Bracco Dylan Strome
    17 Daniel Sprong Brandon Carlo
    18 Nick Merkley Anthony Beauvillier
    19 Jeremy Roy DeBrusk
    20 Eric Cernak Mackenzie Blackwood
    21 Beauvillier Vince Dunn
    22 Colin White Ilya Samsonov
    23 Mitchell Stephens Conor Garland
    24 J. Harkins Andrew Mangiapane
    25 M. Vande Sompell Rasmus Andersson
    26 Meier Travis Dermott
    27 R Andersson Denis Gurianov
    28 S. Aho Roope Hintz
    29 J DeBrusk Colin White
    30 David Kase Eriksson Ek

    A couple of things jump out – first of all who are some these guys that Pronman has going in the first round? a number of them I’ve never heard of

    Second – if you compare Pronman’s 22 picks for the first round after #8 he was wrong on 13 of them (over half) – he had 13 players going in the first round that in the redraft weren’t in the first round at all

    Third – there were 12 players that were in the first round of the redraft that Pronman didn’t have going in the first round – all good players

    They are Boeser, Cirelli, Carlo, Blackwood, Dunn, Samsonov, Garland, Mangiapane, Dermott, Gurianov, Hintz, Eriksson Ek

    I’m not saying Pronman is bad at his job (not at least without comparing him to other prognosticators over a bigger sample) but rather how difficult it is to project with confidence how a prospect will develop

    Naturally it’s better to have a highly ranked prospect pool because that just gives a team more opportunities to hit on players but on the flip side it would be wise not to invest too much into writer’s projections of prospects especially the younger they are

    Also this exercise had the side effect of making me feel better about the Hawks first rounder this year at #32 Nolan Allan – just because Pronman (or some other writer/scout) thought it was a reach doesn’t mean it was – Pronman at that range of the draft seems to be wrong more than he’s right

  • August 12, 2021 at 8:38 am
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    *sorry about the foramatting of the list – that’s not how I typed it but how it showed up – there originally was a separation between them but if you persevere all the info is there

  • August 12, 2021 at 6:27 pm
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    Winnipeg must have heard me. Copp 1yr 3.64mil.

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