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Why Jonathan Toews is playing final game as a Chicago Blackhawk

The Chicago Blackhawks are parting ways with their captain, whether he wants to keep playing or not.

CHICAGO — Thursday's game against the Philadelphia Flyers will be the last for Jonathan Toews as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks.

And it's not necessarily tied to pending retirement, but actually a club decision.

Blackhawks General Manager Kyle Davidson and Toews spoke recently and mutually understand that when No. 19's contract expires this summer, the team does not intend to re-sign him.  

"I've had a number of conversations with Jonathan throughout the season about his future with the Blackhawks, and recently, we had the difficult conversation that we won't be re-signing him this offseason," Davidson said Thursday morning. 

"(Thursday) will be his final game as a Blackhawk. It was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but I told him that wherever he ends up playing next, he'll be a Blackhawk forever."   

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It's fitting that Toews will end his tenure in Chicago against the Flyers, the team the Blackhawks beat in the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, his first of three championships.

At that time, though, the Blackhawks mishandled allegations of sexual assault, and Toews would later back the organization before apologizing to Kyle Beach.

Toews will end his Blackhawks playing career also as a winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy, the Selke Trophy and the Mark Messier Leadership Award, and the longest-serving captain in franchise history. 

The decision coincides with the trade of Patrick Kane to the New York Rangers earlier this season.

Toews recently returned to the team following a two-month absence while dealing with Long COVID and Chronic Immune Response Syndrome.

He's still putting up decent numbers at age 34, with 14 goals and 16 assists in 52 games this season. But, he also recently acknowledged he was uncertain about his hockey future.

"It's definitely on my mind that this could be my last few weeks here in Chicago as a Blackhawk," Toews said on March 28. "It's definitely very important for me to just go out there and just enjoy the game and just kind of soak it in and just really appreciate everything that I've been able to be a part of here in Chicago and show my appreciation to the fans as well."

If he's willing and able, there could be teams looking to add his skills, experience, and leadership in free agency.

That list will be limited to 31 teams, though, as this era in Blackhawks history is officially closed.

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