Jonathan Toews asks for ‘patience’ as he struggles with COVID and CIRS symptoms. Will his absence affect his Chicago Blackhawks future?

Have Chicago Blackhawks fans seen the last of Jonathan Toews?

The three-time Stanley Cup champion revealed in a statement Sunday that he’s dealing with a recurrence of the health challenges that sidelined him for the 2020-21 season as well as the last seven games this season — including Sunday versus the Toronto Maple Leafs — dating to Feb. 7.

“First of all, thank you to the fans and all those who have shown concern about my absence,” Toews said in a statement the team released. “I’m still dealing with the symptoms of long COVID and Chronic Immune Response Syndrome (CIRS).

“It has been really challenging to play through these symptoms. In the last few weeks, it has reached the point where I had no choice but to step back and concentrate on getting healthy. I am thankful for the patience and support of my teammates, the coaching staff and the entire Blackhawks organization.”

Toews, who was placed on injured reserve Wednesday, also was a late scratch Jan. 26 in Calgary. He returned to play two nights later in Edmonton — the Hawks’ last game before the All-Star break — but hasn’t played since.

The longtime Hawks center has said in the past that CIRS sometimes leaves him feeling lethargic and like he’s in “outer space.”

“We know this has been a real difficult period for him,” general manager Kyle Davidson said. “We miss him being around the team and we want to get him back around the team and on the ice.

“But in the meantime, we’re going to work with him and support him in whatever he needs to make sure he’s feeling good and feeling strong and in a spot where he can come back on the ice. We’ll take it day by day, but the hope is he can still play some games here down the stretch.

“From my understanding, he just wasn’t feeling great and (his) body wasn’t responding the way he was hoping, so taking a little bit of a step back. But he was skating on the ice when we were in Canada (last week).”

Coach Luke Richardson said the Hawks “feel for (Toews) and just supporting him right now.”

He was back (with the team) this week, first steps of getting back and working out and skating, and unfortunately wasn’t getting the results that he wanted,” Richardson said. “Collaboratively we just felt like stepping back and for him trying to figure out and get some answers is the best thing for his health.”

With Toews’ absence indefinite, it not only likely erases whatever trade value he may have had, but also places his Hawks future in doubt. His contract, worth $10.5 million annually, expires after this season.

Patrick Kane, who won three titles with Toews, also is playing out the end of his contract and recently confirmed he is open to a trade to a contender.

Davidson declined to say whether he would be open to re-signing either Kane or Toews, suggesting it’s premature to look beyond the March 3 trade deadline to assess either player’s future.

“I don’t think it changes anything for us,” Davidson said. “We’ll get to the deadline and see how that plays out, and then we’ll make decisions for next year after that.”

Toews initially resisted the Hawks’ decision to rebuild and since has “seen the writing on the wall,” while Kane has been discussing options with his agent, Pat Brisson, who also represents Toews.

Kane recently told reporters he has been evaluating how he wants to spend the rest of his NHL career and expressed disappointment when the New York Rangers traded for forward Vladimir Tarasenko.

“That’s a two-way street,” Davidson said of his interest in Kane and Toews, “and it’s something we’ll get to once we figure out where we’re at on March 4.”

Toews missed the 56-game pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season with CIRS and symptoms he suspected at the time were the effects of contracting COVID-19.

Last season he scored a career-low 12 goals and tied a career low with 25 assists in 71 games.

Richardson, who was named the Hawks’ 40th head coach June 27, said that after he took over the job, Toews “talked about his past a little bit, what he’s gone through. But I wasn’t here and (haven’t) gone through that timeline with him.”

Heading into training camp last summer, Toews felt he was in a “good spot.”

“There’s always something to work on,” he said on Sept. 22, “so as far as conditioning and energy out there, it’s a lot better than what it was last year and definitely feeling really motivated and excited to just go out there and play.”

Toews looked rejuvenated at the beginning of the season and led the team after 11 games with seven goals plus two assists. He missed his first game with “a non-COVID-related illness” Dec. 6 at New Jersey, the Hawks’ 25th game.

Richardson said he hadn’t noticed a decline in Toews’ play or health.

“I think it was probably creeping in, and he’s a total professional,” Richardson said. “When he was not feeling great in New Jersey, I believe, and I kind of pulled him from the lineup, he was not happy with me.

“He’s a competitor and … I think that’s why it’s taken this long for him, struggling with trying to figure out why he’s not feeling the way he wants to feel. I think it was just affecting him, not just on the ice but probably just personally.

“I think he was just at times this year feeling some fatigue and soreness and battling through it at the beginning of the year. It just got to the point where he felt like it was too much and affecting him physically. It’s got to the point now where he’s trying to figure that out.”

Davidson called Toews’ situation “an ongoing thing.”

“It started previous to the All-Star break,” he said. “It’s not something that just came up. We’re kind of dealing with it alongside him for some time now.”