Toews still without timetable to return to Blackhawks, GM says

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Jonathan Toews doesn’t yet have a timetable to return to the Chicago Blackhawks, but general manager Stan Bowman is optimistic their captain will play at some point this season.

“Same answer I gave the other day which is, we’re all hopeful that he continues on his path and training and feeling better. Nothing’s derailed that,” Bowman said Monday. “But with what he’s gone through, we don’t know where it’s going to be. So here we are today, things are looking good and that’s our thought moving forward.”

Toews announced on Dec. 29, 2020, that he was taking a medical leave of absence, saying he was experiencing symptoms that left him feeling drained and lethargic. He first spoke publicly about the issue on June 30, when he said he missed last season with what is being called chronic immune response syndrome.

“I just think there’s a lot of things that just kind of piled up where my body just fell apart,” the 33-year-old forward said in a Twitter message. “So what they’re calling it is chronic immune response syndrome, where I just couldn’t quite recover, and my immune system was reacting to everything I did, any kind of stress, anything that I would do throughout the day. It was always kind of a stress response.”

In the video, Toews was skating at Fifth Third Arena, the Blackhawks’ training facility, although it is unknown when he arrived in Chicago or resumed skating.

“I’m excited to get back to the United Center and play and just go out there and have fun,” Toews said. “I think my best is going to come through and I’m excited to get back in front of the fans.”

Toews last played during the 2019-20 season, when he scored 60 points (18 goals, 42 assists) in 70 games. He also scored nine points (five goals, four assists) in nine games in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when the Blackhawks defeated the Edmonton Oilers in four games in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers before they were eliminated in five games by the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference First Round.

Bowman said Toews’ return would give the Blackhawks good depth at center after they acquired Tyler Johnson in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning for defenseman Brent Seabrook on July 27.

Johnson scored 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) in 55 games last season and seven points (four goals, three assists) in 23 playoff games, helping the Lightning win their second straight Stanley Cup championship. The 31-year-old has three seasons remaining on a seven-year, $35 million contract ($5 million average annual value) he signed with the Lightning on July 10, 2017.

“Looking at our center ice position now, you have Jonathan Toews coming back, you have Kirby (Dach) coming into his third season, and you have Tyler Johnson joining the mix,” Bowman said. “I think it gives us a solid foundation of those three players down the middle.”

Selected by Chicago with the No. 3 pick in the 2006 NHL Draft, Toews has scored 815 points (345 goals, 470 assists) in 943 regular-season games and 119 points (45 goals, 74 assists) in 137 postseason games. He has helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup three times (2010, 2013 and 2015), and during their run in 2010 he won the Conn Smythe Trophy, voted as the most valuable player in the playoffs, after scoring 29 points (seven goals, 22 assists) in 22 games.

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